Domenico Criscito, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi while possibly waiting for Andrea Belotti. Toronto FC will soon have more Italians in its workforce than the teams that occupy the top of the bill in Serie A. All but a surprise with regard to the finances of the club, but above all the links which unite the city and the Boot.
The summer transfer window did not yet exist when an Italian already chose to join Canada. The Venetian Giovanni Caboto, or Jean Cabot in its French version, landed on the other side of the Atlantic in 1497 after a good month of crossing. Five hundred years later, three of his compatriots took only a few hours to join Toronto FC. If, at the time, the taste for discovery had attracted the navigator, almost half a millennium later, Domenico Criscito, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi have answered the call of greenbacks, but not only. With a large Italian community, the queen city remains more than ever linked to Italy.
An important story
“The only place that has more Ferraris than Toronto, I think is Miami” , says Pal Di Iulio, now retired after 35 years of leading Villa Charities, an Italian-Canadian charity based in Toronto. After being born in Italy, the septuagenarian immigrated to Canada in 1956, like many of his compatriots: “Most of us arrived here after 1948-1949. Canada needed workers. And so people like my father, who had fought against fascism or Nazism, came to Canada. » After having seen the migratory flows towards Canada stopped by the coming to power of Mussolini, the Italians, especially those of the South, fled massively after the war. So much so that today, 500,000 to 750,000 of them live in the Toronto area, enough to make “the largest community of people of Italian origin in Canada” . A strong argument for the MLS franchise when convincing its three new recruits.
“Toronto is definitely the best solution. There is an Italian community that can fill you like a kingexplains Andrea D’Amico, Criscito’s agent who also participated in the visits of Bernardeschi and Insigne. If you are going to play abroad and there is not the same community as yours, you are on your own. So for Italians, it’s a privilege to come here. » Especially since since those years, the importance of all this diaspora arriving from La Botte has continued to grow. “We may have been discriminated against when we arrived here, but ultimately most of us now have an education. The community mainly worked: the women in the factories and in the clothing industry and the men in the construction, in particular that of the railroads. If there are 50 large construction companies in Toronto, 30 to 40 of them are owned by very wealthy Italian-Canadians” , details Pal Di Iulio. In other words, the Italians weigh economically in North America.
World cups and Formica atomica
The arrivals of the three newcomers should not change the situation for Andrea D’Amico: “Insigne and Bernardeschi could not have had the same contract in Italy or in Europe. » In addition to a significant financial power, the residents of MLS keep especially in a corner of the head the World 2026 organized in Mexico, the United States and Canada, in particular in Toronto. Reason why the two 2020 European champions have both signed a contract until December of this same year. An event that has linked the two countries since the World Cup won by the Nazionale in 1982. “At that time, we showed Toronto how to partyrewinds Di Iulio, who has lived in Canada for more than 60 years. Every time Italy plays, the Italians go out to the bar, they drink, eat, jump… They do anything. And over the years, since 1982, it has become a tradition at each European Cup or each World Cup. Additionally, many bars and restaurants in Toronto are owned and operated by people of Italian descent. » This shared fervor was still present during the continental coronation of the Azzurri last summer.
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Once again, the history of the capital of Ontario is marked by its landed contingent from La Botte. Rather logical, since football itself was popularized by these immigrants. “A lot of us who came here as kids maybe didn’t have the money to play hockey. It was cheaper to play footballexplains Pal Di Iulio. There are two or three children of immigrants or grandchildren of immigrants who are part of the TFC team currently (one in the first team, four in reserve, Ed), in addition to the three Italian players who have just arrived. » Without forgetting that one of their predecessors, Sebastian Giovinco, who arrived in 2015, also contributed to this development. Triple winner of the Canadian championship, and crowned in MLS in 2017, the Formica Atomica contributes greatly to the influence of his compatriots. “When Giovinco left, they tried other footballers or coaches from different countries. And for some reason, they didn’t do very well. So I think they said, let’s go back to where we did well.” , advances the Italian-Canadian to justify the recruitment of Criscito, Insigne and Bernardeschi. All that remains now is to wait a few months to see if these recruits will allow Toronto FC to return to the heights in MLS in what is akin to a real homecoming. While waiting to write their own stories, they are already part of the more charged one that has united Italians and Canadians for several centuries.
By Florian Porta
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