Next soccer stars will be revealed

GEORGE GROSS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:04 AM ET

Superstars such as Diego Maradona of Argentina and Portugal's "banana free kick specialist" Eusebio are not born every day.

However the players first showed off their talents in past FIFA Under-20 World Cups.

Before the opening game of this year's tournament one could not find the likes of Maradona and Eusebio, no matter how hard we searched.

But before this year's tournament ends at BMO Field, we might get to see some future soccer greats close to the talent of the aforementioned superstars.

That is also the opinion of former Scottish soccer star Graham Leggat, whom I first saw in action in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, the year the great Pele made his debut for the Brazilian national team at age 17. It's history by now that Brazil captured the golden FIFA trophy that year by defeating the host country.

After Leggat, the now 73-year-old soccer ace, immigrated to Canada, I saw him play and coach the Toronto Metros during the early 1970s and watched him perform as a fine soccer television commentator from the Montreal Olympics in 1976 and the World Cup two years later. It's a shame we can't hear his colourful Scottish accent on the air giving us true insights into the matches played.

In any case, he is entitled to express an expert opinion on the standard of play in this year's Under-20 World Cup after watching some of the games on television.

"They have some pretty good players competing in this tournament," said the Aberdeen-born man who played professional soccer for Aberdeen, Fulham, Birmingham City and Rotherham United.

"These fellows have a lot of talent. I remember doing a colour commentary on the Youth Cup final in Tokyo (in 1979), an event won by Argentina. And boy, were they excellent players, including Maradona!

"I've been watching some of the games here this year and I can tell you that I saw some players who are destined to be superstars of the future. And the fans (more than one million tickets sold) are getting good value for their dollars. I also noticed that there are big boys among them. You have guys 6-foot-5, weighing 200 pounds with beards and moustaches. Maybe someone should check their birth certificates."

Leggat figures that, thanks to the new FIFA rules which allow obstruction, the game is easier to play, particularly for players who are on the ball.

The former Scottish international, who was inducted into Canada's Soccer Hall of Fame in 2001, knows what he is talking about when assessing the talent of some Under-20 players.

After all, the likable Scot scored 248 goals in 500 matches and earned 18 full caps for Scotland.

Moreover, he holds the record for the fastest three goals in top-class English soccer by scoring a hat-trick in three minutes in one of the league games.

Now that he is retired, he is trying to score a hole-in-one on the golf courses around Niagara Falls. The rest of us will be watching which players will become the next Maradona, Eusebio or Pele, Brazil's incomparable Black Pearl.

GROSSLY ABBREVIATED

In spite of "sold out" announcements, there are still tickets available for some Toronto FC games. Such, however, is not the case for the Los Angeles Galaxy versus Toronto FC game on Aug. 5 ... It is still not known if or when FIFA president Sepp Blatter will attend a game at BMO Field in Toronto during the FIFA U-20 World Cup ... Artist Ken Danby, who illustrated Hockey Hall of Famer Ken Dryden in the goaltender's pensive stance a few years ago, will show his latest art work called Stampede at the Masters Gallery in Calgary July 7. It depicts chuckwagon racing.


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