Ontario soccer pioneer hasn't been forgotten

GEORGE GROSS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:45 PM ET

The diehard soccer historian in southern Ontario might be surprised to discover that the sport in this province is actually five years older than most believe.

Ontario soccer will be celebrating its 127th anniversary in the new year. However, it's true birth date goes back to Oct. 21, 1876, with a game between the soccer team of the Carlton Cricket Club of Toronto and the newly formed Toronto Lacrosse Club.

How do I know? It's rather simple: It was contained in a document from April 22, 1981, which surfaced at the Metropolitan Toronto Soccer Association Centennial Committee's event honouring Ontario soccer.

The event paid tribute to the memory of Canada's foremost soccer founder, David Forsyth, who was not only a pioneer player, but also an organizer, teacher and team official during his lifetime.

Paul Godfrey, former Metro Chairman and now president of the Blue Jays, was the honorary chairman of the event with the late Toronto city alderman Joe Piccininni -- an enthusiastic soccer fan -- serving as the active chairman.

Forsyth was born in Perthshire, Scotland, on Dec. 15, 1852, and moved with his family to Canada and resided in several southern Ontario towns.

Eventually, he attended the University of Toronto to further his great interest in mathematics and science. It was during his time at U of T, that he actively became involved in football (soccer) and, upon graduating in 1875, became a science teacher and educational innovator.

In 1909, Forsyth was appointed as a member if the Royal Commission on Industrial Training and Technical Education in charge of the portfolio of collegiate and secondary technical schools and their relation to manual training.

Thanks to his soccer enthusiasm, Forsyth later played a key role in the expansion of the game in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, destined to become one of the hottest centres of the game in Ontario.

He was the sparkplug that helped the formation of the Western Football Association in 1880 with a membership of 19 clubs. That same year, he gave impetus to soccer at U of T, which became known as Varsity's "association Football Club."

International matches against New York and overseas teams from Scotland and England followed in short order and Forsyth was promoting the game until his death in Beamsville in 1936, at the age of 84.

GROSSLY ABBREVIATED

Several players of the old Toronto City Soccer Club are still living in Ontario. The team was established in 1961 and captured the Eastern Canada Professional League title with star players such as Sir Stanley Matthews, Danny Blanchflower, Johnny Haynes, Jackie Mudie, Bobby Nicol, Alan Harvey and Johnny Brooks. Of that team Nicol, a former Scotland and Hibernians player, still lives in Toronto, as does Jimmy Gilmour, goalie and trainer, while Harvey moved from Oshawa to Sudbury ... Former Hungarian international goalie Gyula Grosics had minor heart surgery and is recuperating in Budapest ... The former Ferencvaros Stadium in the Hungarian capital was renamed the Florian Albert Stadium in honour of its superstar player who, a few years ago, won the FIFA Golden Boot award ... Former Scottish World Cup player Graham Leggat lives a gentleman's retirement life in Niagara Falls.


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