Discovering League1 Ontario: A Rising Star Story

Along time ago on a continent far far away….

I was lucky. I was lucky that as a passionate fan I was born and spent twenty something years in a country that was also mad about the sport I love. That has a deeply embedded culture and league system that has been around for donkeys years. A league system that most of the world base theirs off of and has been very successful. A semi successful national team. A 24/7 soap opera that makes headlines on the front and back pages of the national newspapers. Football is everywhere. Then I moved to Canada, Toronto to be exact, and that all changed.

Truthfully, I didn’t really know much about the country I had agreed to move to and live in for potentially the rest of my life, let alone what the football culture was like. But being the football nerd that I am, months before coming over, when I should have been researching jobs, I was researching local football teams. For whatever reason I assumed there would be some sort of pyramid like back home, or at least numerous professional clubs. I was wrong. Obviously there was TFC, and there is plenty material around regarding them and MLS. Outside of that I found the CSL, with strange team names like Toronto Croatia (which I have since discovered are a historically relevant team in Toronto), and Brampton City United with a badge extremely reminiscent of another famous United. Then I read about the match fixing, and that it was unsanctioned due to this, which is extremely off putting for potential fans.

Then I saw that there was this little league starting up that very year which was very interesting to me. I understood that it was more of a development league, but as I big proponent of local football I was very intrigued by this. Problem was that my ‘local’ team was disbanded less than a month into my Canadian journey and living downtown wasn’t about to get public transport for a couple of hours each way to watch amateur football. So it stayed this way, but there was always something in the back of my head wanting to get involved with this league in some way and support local football in Canada, which has led me to here.

I can’t coach or anything so when this opportunity came up to cover a team in this league it really jumped out at me. Due to my current location, the nearest teams to me play around the corner at the Hershey Centre. I had to decide whether to pick either Sigma FC or North Mississauga SC to cover. This was reasonably easy, I had to pick the ‘Academy of Canada’, the team that has produced a number of players for the Canadian National Teams and for MLS, most famously the 2015 Rookie of the Year Cyle Larin. More recently both Kwame Awuah and Chris Nanco, both former Sigma players have been drafted by MLS teams. The former will team up with World Cup winner David Villa and co at NYCFC and the latter, unlucky to be so low in my opinion after decent performances in the combine, will join up with the Union in Philly, and I wish them both luck for the upcoming season.

Covering any L1O team will come with its own nuances. Information is hard to come by online, squads change mid-season when the kids go off to college. You don’t get multiple angles of incidents that occur in matches, but I’m really looking forward to the challenge of writing about Sigma this year and following the league more closely. Tim Vickery always says of covering South American football that he gets to see the next big thing before they become a household name. Maybe I’ll get to witness the next Mo Babouli, or Jnr Hoilett, or even Lionel Messi……. I can dream.

This comes at an exciting time, well, I’m excited. Maybe this is misplaced but it seems to be the general consensus around the sport in this country that we are at a possible turning point. More talent is being produced, there are more opportunities for young players, with leagues like L1O, PLSQ, the freshly announced BCRT3, and the much talked about but yet to be officially announced CPL, or whatever they are going to call it. I want to help in whatever tiny way I can to help this sport grow in this country, so that future generations of passionate football fans can grow up as lucky as I was.

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Dan Baldwin

Dan Baldwin

Dan joins us to finally get involved in doing something about the sport he loves. Born in England he has played and followed the game his whole life. After moving to Toronto in 2014, he immediately began to learn about the local soccer scene and is passionate about the development of the sport in the country. However, he can still found cheering on his beloved West Ham each weekend morning at the Dog and Bear pub.

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