TORONTO – Rarely is a friendly actually a friendly, but on a cool night at BMO Field, Jermain Defoe welcomed plenty of familiar faces from his former side, Tottenham Hotspur, in an entertaining 3-2 match that had plenty of goals and moments of excitement, including a second-half comeback from Toronto FC.
Leading up to the night, Defoe naturally grabbed headlines, but it was 18-year-old Jordan Hamilton and Andrew Wiedeman who got their scoring boots on against Spurs. Still, Defoe said this game was certainly one for the memories in his playing career.
“It was a little bit strange because I was there for such a long time, but I really enjoyed it,” Defoe told reporters after the match. “It was nice to see all the players. It was strange, but I suppose when I finish football, I’ll look back at these memories and reflect and think, ‘You know what, all the years at Tottenham, it’s a special club, with special fans, good players and nice people,’ so I really enjoyed it.”
Wednesday’s match was an occasion borne from Defoe’s transfer to Toronto FC from Tottenham back in February, as a part of the deal along with a commercial partnership. At the center of all the attention, Defoe says he’s just happy to be playing the game he loves.
“Sometimes when you think about it, it’s nice,” Defoe said, when asked how it felt to be the man of the hour. “But when all the attention is on you, sometimes it’s like 'Ugh!'” he added, groaning comically. “I just love playing football. At the age of 31, to still wake up in the morning and enjoy training, look forward to every game, I still get the same buzz.”
Not only was Defoe under the spotlight, he also captained the team for the first half.
“It’s special to wear the captain’s armband,” Defoe said. “All the players were saying to me, ‘Now you can moan a bit more than I do already!’"
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With Toronto FC’s midseason friendly now wrapped up with a clean bill of health, the Reds shift focus back to league play, where they host Sporting Kansas City on Saturday (7 pm ET, TSN2/RDS2 in Canada, MLS Live in US).
Still, these midseason friendlies look set to stay, and Defoe says he’s already got another Premier League team in his sights.
“I’d like to play against Arsenal.” Defoe said. “I enjoyed playing against Arsenal for Tottenham. I’m just disappointed I can’t play on the weekend because I’m suspended, five yellow cards, which is unusually for me – I don’t normally get involved, I don’t usually get yellow cards.
"We’ve got so many important games coming up. They’re massive games that we have to win."