More than a club: Toronto FC adopting Barcelona motto in Canada with community initiatives - "It's critical"

Tim Bezbatchenko, Toronto FC

Photo Credit: 
TorontoFC.ca

TORONTO – Toronto FC have undergone a makeover over the past year or so: new coach, new GM, new Designated Players.

But the club wants to be seen as more than just a soccer club. It's the reason captain Steven Caldwell and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko went out of their way after Thursday's practice to get the word out about the Purolator Tackle Hunger Food Drive happening at Saturday's match against the Houston Dynamo (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE).

“Obviously we’re committed to winning on the pitch, but we’re only as good as the fans and the community of Toronto,” Bezbatchenko said. "We want to reflect the values of the city of Toronto. Giving back to such a good cause and giving back to Canadians who are struggling in this area is something we want to be a part of. It’s important to our mission and vision, so, yes, it’s critical.”

The annual food drive has been a part and parcel of the club since its inception and for the eighth straight year TFC will be collecting non-perishable food items and donations to help feed Toronto's needy. The first 450 donors will be gifted signed team merchandise.

Since his arrival last year, Bezbatchenko says he's made it a priority for the club to be part of community initiatives. Earlier in the year, he took part in sleeping outdoors overnight to raise awareness of homelessness in Toronto for the Covenant House.

“We’re lucky to be in a position where you can make these causes more visible and raise awareness,” said Bezbatchenko, who indicated he expects a record number of donations from TFC supporters for Saturday's food drive. “On a personal level, it’s great, but the most important thing is that our TFC community is large and to that extent, we can raise awareness in that community.

"The Covenant House was a great opportunity to expose and raise awareness for homelessness in Toronto; this is another opportunity for us to raise awareness – 850,000 Canadians take advantage of the food drive, so it’s just great to have these opportunities.”

Armen Bedakian covers Toronto FC for MLSsoccer.com.