Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Soccer is Alive and Well and Living in Toronto

From generation to generation: youngsters get their kicks

By: David Shear

Published: January 7th, 2013 in News » World

Soccer is Alive and Well and Living in Toronto

This past decade has seen unprecedented interest in soccer in North America, starting with David Beckham’s American debut in the MLS, and more recently with the success of the Canadian National Women’s soccer team at this summer’s London Olympics.

Soccer in Toronto, however, has long been a popular pastime, thanks, in large part due to diverse immigrant populations and the resulting cultural enclaves that fervently follow, support, and play the game. Think no further than Little Italy during the Euro 2012 or during previous World Cup years.

What might come as a surprise to many is that the Jewish community is no exception.

From second and third generations of Jews born in Canada, to more recent Jewish immigrants from Israel, Russia, South America and South Africa, Toronto hosts a vast pool of people that not only avidly follow the game, but also of those who play at a very competitive level. The Jewish community boasts a deep reservoir of soccer passion and talent from which to draw in order to pass it on to the next generation.

And passing it on it certainly is.

On December 23rd, 2012, the soccer torch was symbolically passed from one generation to the next, as the first ever “elite” Maccabi youth team took on their parents, headed by coaches Jason Mausberg and Gerry Wimmer, in an end of year fun match. Team Maccabi is the creation of a partnership between Maccabi Canada and the Toronto JCC’s Chai Sports. In addition to bringing Jews together through sport, its mandate is also to cultivate excellent soccer players from the ground up with the goal of competing at elite levels. This will mean eventually having the players poised in a competitive position to obtain university soccer scholarships here and abroad. It will also mean eligibility to compete for spots in the annual North American JCC games, the Pan American Games in South America, and the all coveted Maccabi Games held every four years in Israel.

This summer will mark the 19th Maccabiah in Israel with over 600 delegates proudly wearing the Maple Leaf who will compete against Jews from over 50 countries. The Maccabi games in Israel are the third largest sporting event in the world. But they are not just about competing but, rather, they are about the cultural experience of Israel and the coming together of Jews from around the globe. Similarly, Team Maccabi is not only about striving for excellence in sport, but is also about creating a small Jewish community within the community, where Jews from all walks of life can participate in a pluralistic environment that encourages a nurturing, constructive, and positive home for kids to learn the game. This kind of environment is all too often lacking in youth sports leagues today. When it comes to competitive sport, people are often skeptical about whether such a nurturing environment can yield the same kind of excellence as that produced by the more traditional disciplinary approaches. The amazing success of both the youth and adult Maccabi teams speak for themselves. The results in 2012, the inaugural year for the youth club, have been astounding.

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