FeatureWe Love You Liverpool: Meet Official LFC Supporters Club... Toronto
Liverpool FC has more than 300 Official LFC Supporters Clubs (OLSCs) across 100 countries worldwide.
The Reds' fanbase is famous for its passion and loyalty, cheering on both Jürgen Klopp and Matt Beard's squads whether on Merseyside or watching from afar.
Our We Love You Liverpool feature aims to bring supporters closer together to learn more about each other wherever they are based around the globe.
Whether in the UK and Republic of Ireland, on Merseyside itself, in North or South America, Africa, Asia, Australia or elsewhere, fans provide the very foundations that the club is built on.
Here, we meet OLSC Toronto...
Firstly, can you introduce yourself - tell us a little a bit about who you are and where you are from…
My name is Aizaz Sheikh, and I'm the director of marketing and communications for OLSC Toronto. I help bring our brand and marketing to life, from design to trying out new things on our social media channels.
I'm originally from, of all places, Manchester - choosing to support Liverpool aged six against many family wishes. But when you know, you know. I spent most of my early life in Cheshire. From 2003 to 2010, I was a proud member of the priority ticket scheme at Anfield, going to pretty much every home game in that time.
I moved to Toronto in 2010 and have been visiting the OLSC here ever since. Most of my time in Toronto I was working for a global travel company, that made being an official part of the club difficult, but it enabled me to see OLSCs across the world.
When the pandemic grounded me in Toronto, I applied to become an active part of running the club.
Tell us about the OLSC Toronto… how did it come to be?
The official Toronto branch was formed in 2001, created by a mix of ex-pats and Canadian Liverpool supporters. Back then, there was very little access to football on Canadian TV, so watching the Reds was difficult. We've been part of the OLSC network since September 2005, a few months after the miracle of Istanbul.
We're currently proud to have a membership base of over 800 members, driven by the successful 2021-22 campaign, and a series of events and watch parties. We were proud to host an audience of over 1,000 people across three venues for the Carabao, FA Cup and Champions League finals last season.
Some other highlights include hosting a range of former players over the years, including Bruce Grobbelaar, Ron Yeats, 'super sub' Dave Fairclough, Ian St John, Phil Neal and John Barnes.
How special is it to have a feel of Liverpool despite being in Toronto? What makes it a great OLSC to be a part of?
Toronto is a world-class city and continues to grow in importance and popularity due to several reasons. Firstly, it's the centre of business for Canada and one of the largest cities in North America and has a passionate group of sports teams with feverish fanbases that continue to keep Toronto on top of people's minds.
As an immigration hotspot in the western world, Toronto has a very multicultural population. Thus, it has a global football fanbase, with supporters clubs from around the world. As one of the leading football clubs around the world, having the Liverpool presence is an absolute must.
As well as providing the meeting ground for the local Toronto fans, we have a constant stream of tourists and visitors coming through to the club as Toronto is always attracting travellers from around the world.
As for our OLSC, we feel like a special family. We are very active and connected in online groups, and no matter what time the game is on - or the weather - we always have a big group of fans coming together to watch games. We support each other, as well as supporting the team, and especially as newcomers make Toronto their home - our tenured ex-pats endeavour to really help newcomers feel part of this wonderful city and part of this fantastic LFC community.
Do you hold any special events throughout the season, or meet-ups for games?
As well as meet-ups and watch parties for every single match, we pride ourselves in having a busy schedule of events beyond the games too.
We currently have two active pubs. One is in the heart of the city, very close to the main train station and central to the tourist areas. The other is based about an hour outside the city as the Greater Toronto Area is a hotbed of Liverpool fans too, and getting into the city, especially for the earlier games, isn't always easy. On Premier League matchdays we always have a half-time member prize draw, which we film live right on the 45th minute.
Beyond the matches, we have a range of other events for our members. We host an annual Christmas party, which is always a vibe! Our local crew comes together to have a live performance of all LFC classic songs. We also organise events with other Liverpool-based organisations, and organise some of our own events such as an LFC Rewind event where we come together to watch a classic LFC game. Finally, we have events through the summer too, such as barbecues and beach days.
What is so unique about being a Liverpool supporter for your members?
I think all the global taglines apply to us. From You'll Never Walk Alone bringing the sense of togetherness and community, to This Means More defining the deep love for our club - Toronto members are a passionate bunch.
In short, being a Liverpool supporter isn't just supporting the football club, it's about being part of our global family. We spoke earlier about the diversity and multiculturalism in Toronto, and our members embody that too. We are known in the city as being one of the biggest (and best!) fan clubs for any football team, and we are proud to embody all the great things about the club in our club.
Finally, we live by our mantra: Body in Toronto, Heart in Liverpool.
How do you bring 'Anfield' to Toronto?
Like Wembley is 'Anfield South', we like to call ourselves 'Anfield North' - a play on Toronto (and Canada's) name as The North.
We bring Anfield to our pubs by trying to recreate as many elements of Anfield as possible. Fundamental to it all is a core group of fans that are always coming together to watch the games, through good times and bad. We have a team of pub ambassadors that we coordinate to make sure there is always a big presence of warm and friendly faces to greet our members and tourists alike.
Then comes the singing! We belt out all the classics, and even have a couple of local remixes to honour the staples of our local club.
Finally, we have designed a range of banners to try to replicate the passion of the flags and scarves on the Kop.
Has the OLSC ever visited Anfield?
We strive to get as many of our members over to Anfield. We always request that our members take pictures and videos that we can share on our socials, and we even host Instagram Lives with our members when some of them are over there.
As an executive team, two of our members had the honour to attend the OLSC black-tie dinner in May this year. A truly special time for Sam and Yvi, and the rest of our OLSC execs hope to attend another in 2023.
How has it been to follow the club in recent history? There has been plenty to cheer about under Jürgen Klopp and Matt Beard…
From the moment Jürgen arrived, I think we all knew we were about to embark on a special journey. Even the most skeptical fan couldn't help but get excited. The last few years have been the most memorable ever for many of our members, with Jürgen and Matt Beard both bringing so much joy for us.
It goes without saying that every single trophy being won, as well as memorable semi-final matches too, will long live in our memory, as will the players that we all adore.
But I think the biggest thing to say is the role the club played in keeping us all together and hopefully during the global pandemic. Our club was more connected than ever using messaging apps to virtually watch all games together when we couldn't be physically together. Those moments will also live on in our hearts forever.
If anyone is interested in joining your OLSC, how would they go about doing so?
LFC fans can join via our website lfctoronto.com, we promote it heavily on our social media and during gamedays. We have a great number of perks for our members. From discounts on food at our host pubs, to discounts at The Anfield Shop - North America's licensed LFC retailer - as well as the chance of applying for tickets to Anfield.
Finally, is there anything else you'd like to mention? A funny or heart-warming story? A particularly loyal fan?
I think the biggest thing to mention is our commitment to being an OLSC that the club can be proud of. We're happy to be a testing ground for new initiatives and are happy to share our best practices and lessons with any OLSC to help make our programme better around the world.
Name: OLSC Toronto
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Home bar: Elephant and Castle, Toronto and Slye Fox, Burlington