World Cup hawking at Lawrence West and Caledonia.
Being a soccer fan in Toronto means being conflicted—at least that’s the case for some every four years when the World Cup rolls around. In a city as diverse as Toronto, choosing a single country to root for can seem daunting. If only Toronto had it as simple as other soccer-crazed cities around the globe. Fans in Rome wave the Italian flag. Fans in San Paolo, Brazil’s. Citizens of Pyongyang find themselves in a depressingly Orwellian situation.
Reasons for Toronto’s World Cup quandary are many. For one, Canada’s national team, ranked sixty-third, once again failed to qualify. Another factor contributing to Toronto’s Cup crisis? Some of us were born somewhere else, and some of us were conceived on the way over. The rest are a blend of the two. How the heck is anyone expected to form an allegiance to a single national team out of that?
As Torontoist preaches, when life serves lemons, make electric lemonade. There are huge financial gains to be had here. Besides the obvious spike in profits resulting from bars and patios catering to every ethnicity filled to capacity, there’s also money to be made in the sale of a variety of World Cup merchandise, not just the flags of a single nation. Just ask David Gallant, president and CEO of Super Dave’s Superstore. He’s the guy responsible for many of those roadside kiosks hawking World Cup paraphernalia around town.
Like Christmas tree lots that magically materialize overnight come November, World Cup hawkers began appearing around mid-May and will remain until FIFA’s garish trophy, the one practically no human is permitted to touch, has been hoisted.
Gallant’s fourteen outlets operate aboveboard. He has the permits to prove it. Bylaw officers are out in force ordering vendors to show their required hawkers and peddlers’ permit. Vendors operating illegally face fines and forced closure.
Business is brisk. Contacted by email, Gallant said that over the past few weeks, “Sales have been like four Christmases, combined.” The hottest commodity are flags representing the thirty-two competing nations. Adam Carter, one of Gallant’s star hawkers, selling wares out of a small shipping container in a parking lot next to a North York Esso station, reports that besides the ubiquitous flags, all things Italian, Portuguese, and Brazilian are moving well. These include ball caps and scarves, as well as those tiny, dangly soccer balls drivers hang from rearview mirrors. There’s even a replica FIFA trophy for sale for sixy-five dollars.
The closer the calendar gets to the opening ceremonies, the busier the outlets become. Asked which item sells the least, Carter replies, without pause, “North Korean flags.”
Photos by Christopher Drost/Torontoist.