By Mike Woitalla
Of individuals who have had an extraordinary impact on youth soccer in the USA, Clive Toye ranks very, very high on the list.
Toye brought Pele to the New York Cosmos in 1975. That propelled the North American Soccer League, which the Englishman helped launch in 1967, into U.S. mainstream consciousness and enabled the NASL to ignite the nation’s youth soccer boom.
During all his time of running NASL clubs, the former London journalist, besides signing the likes of Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto and Giorgio Chinaglia, sent his players and coaches into grass-roots America to spread the seeds for youth soccer: “Not letting a school go without a visit -- not letting a community miss the chance of a coaching lesson …”
His vision was an America with millions of kids playing soccer and although the NASL, for which he toiled nearly two decades, folded in 1985, the vision became reality.
Fitting then that Toye, who in 2006 wrote the wonderfully informative and entertaining NASL history, “A Kick in the Grass,” has now penned a children’s book: “Toby and The Greatest Game.”
If Roald Dahl had written a soccer book, one imagines it would read like this. The Chocolate Factory is the wonderful world of soccer. The witching hour comes when the young Cameron is doing homework on his computer. Suddenly appears – not a Big Friendly Giant -- but Toby, a magical talking soccer ball.
Toby has to “make sure all the other balls, my helpers, are in place … I am the soccer ball. The rest of them … well, they’re all part of me and I’m part of them.”
So Toby takes Cameron on fantastic journeys through the soccer world, past and present, on all continents. There’s Pele, Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi, Joe Gaetjens, Eusebio, Michelle Akers ... Cameron gets to be a ballboy for Barcelona, witness Brazil’s first game (in 1914), enjoy a World Cup (while tortured by vuvuzelas) …
Young readers will finish the book well-educated on the history of soccer – but fear not that they’ll consider this assigned reading. There’s too much fun – and suspense – as Cameron helps Toby battle for soccer against the Mountain of Greed.
(“Toby and The Greatest Game” by Clive Toye, 2012.IUniverse,126 pages. $11.95 softcover; E-book $3.95.)
(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for Bay Oaks/East Bay United SC in Oakland, Calif. He is the co-author, with Tim Mulqueen, of The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper, and More Than Goalswith Claudio Reyna. Woitalla's youth soccer articles are archived at YouthSoccerFun.com.)