I am sure that in the hearts of every true Toronto FC supporter there is at least one other club team somewhere else on Earth that they have some sort of allegiance towards. I know countless TFC supporters who swear by Hertha Berlin, Juventus, Santos, Tottenham (ick!), Hearts, Real Madrid and even Inverness Caley Thistle amongst many many others. Most of us came to TFC from following other clubs overseas and depending on their attachment to our Reds many still have more affection for their “first love” so to speak than they do for Toronto FC.
Often you will see these supporters wearing some of these clubs kit at our games or they have bits of both on at the same time. And there is not a single solitary thing wrong with that. After all who are we to judge others and how they choose to manifest their individual support? Every one of us came to this TFC thing in a different way and under different circumstances and of course for different reasons.
I for one have an abiding affection for Arsenal Football Club. They are who I supported long before Toronto FC came onto the scene. The Gunners were tops… until I walked into BMO Field for that loss against Kansas City in 2007 and heard 10,000 fans in the west stand start belting out “… all we are saying…. is give us a goal…” late in the second half. After that game Arsenal fell to a strong number two behind Toronto FC. That is the precise moment for me when TFC and BMO Field supplanted Arsenal and Highbury.
And I can’t imagine anything ever changing that going forward.
Until that moment I thought it inconceivable that any team could supplant the Gunners. Yet that is exactly what happened, at least in my case, on that chilly April afternoon. If Toronto FC ever played a competitive match against Arsenal in some glorious day in the future I would likely be found in the front row cursing the Gunners and giving them stick as much and as vigorously as Tottenham supporters do. Never mind the fact that both clubs would have to win their respective continental Champions Leagues to ever have a chance of meeting in a game that would matter (not bloody likely!) I am still confident in stating that I place Toronto FC over the mighty Arsenal.
Tony Adams, Marc Overmars, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp, Ian Wright and one other who I will get to in a second all have a special place in my heart as a fan of that club and of the sport. However Dichio, DeRo, Frings, Guevara and Rick Titus all have special places as well.
Which brings me to the point of this post, namely about one Mr. Thierry Henry.
Any Arsenal supporter will without doubt have a soft spot for a player like Henry who leads Arsenal all time in goals scored and who was looked back upon so highly that the club this year unveiled a statue of him outside Emirates Stadium as part of the clubs 125th year celebration to go along with statues of fellow legends Herbert Chapman and Tony Adams. One of my personal football highlights of the past season was seeing Henry temporarily back on loan to Arsenal score against Leeds in the FA Cup and how he ran along the sidelines that day whipping the crowd into a frenzy and hugging the usually emotionally subdued Arsene Wenger at the end of it all after he scored.
Henry of course is playing for New York now and for those two hours Saturday evening against MY Toronto FC I will simply choose to forget the goals, the trophies and the wonderful memories he has brought me as an Arsenal supporter and he will be yelled at, heckled and cursed at by me as loudly and as effectively as I can.
However I hope that in the heat of the moment I do not forget how simply amazing it will be for me to see one of my absolute favourite footballers (and without a doubt one of the best footballers to play the game in the past quarter century) in the flesh ply his trade in our stadium against our team in our city. Just so I don’t forget I am wearing my Arsenal scarf Saturday as a way to remind myself how wonderfully special it is for us to have a team in our city that allows legends such as Henryto come to town and play in front of our very own eyes. And if the recent rumours are to be believed there might be a few AC Milan supporters out there soon enough who might be marvelling in watching Nesta in the flesh anchor the TFC back line the way he did in Italy. (More on that later!)
Seeing Henry in the flesh again will be a thrill. Seeing him LOSE will be an even bigger one.