|Full name||Croatian National Sports Club Toronto Croatia|
|Ground||Centennial Park Stadium|
|Coach||Velimir Crljen (head)
Milodrag Akmadzic (assistant)
|League||Canadian Soccer League|
|2015||Regular season: 2nd
C.N.S.C. Toronto Croatia (Croatian National Sports Club Toronto Croatia) is a Canadian soccer team, founded in 1956. The team is a member of the Canadian Soccer League, a league that is not sanctioned by FIFA recognized body.
The Croatians currently play their home games at the Centennial Park Stadium in Etobicoke, in the west end of the city of Toronto, Ontario. The team's colours are red, white and blue, similar to those of the Croatian national football team.
The team has had a very storied history, considering it was formed by such a small diaspora group. The team played in the National Soccer League until 1975 when they purchased the Toronto Metros of the North American Soccer League to form Toronto Metros-Croatia. During this period the team attracted many soccer stars, such as Portuguese superstar Eusébio, and were successful enough that they won Soccer Bowl '76 – a 3–0 win over the Minnesota Kicks – at the Kingdome in Seattle. The squad was led by interim coach Marijan Bilić and future coach Domagoj Kapetanović, an immigrant to Canada who had played for Dinamo Zagreb. The champions' team was: Paolo Cimpiel, Tadeusz Polak, Željko Bilecki, Ivan Lukačević, Robert Iarusci, Eusébio, Mladen Cukon, Carmen Marcantonio, Ivair Ferreira, Wolfgang Sühnholz, Damir Sutevski, Ivan Grnja, Filip Blašković and Chris Horrocks.
However, the NASL was never comfortable with the Croatia link (an obvious ethnic connection). League executives lobbied CBS to ensure they were only referred to as Toronto at the Soccer Bowl on television. In 1978, the team was bought out, leaving the Toronto Blizzard in the NASL, while Toronto Croatia returned to the NSL. In 1994, Toronto Croatia joined the Canadian International Soccer League. In 1997, a new league was formed, the Canadian Professional Soccer League, which Toronto Croatia joined in 1998. The club's successes despite the instabilities it found in each of the leagues in which it has played is a testament to what a small ethnic group could accomplish in North American sport.
During the 1980s the club met with limited success as the creation of a National League in Canada (CPSL-Canadian Professional Soccer League)was attempted. This league comprised teams across Canada (Winnipeg, Montreal, etc.) and initially got off to a strong start. The team was entered as Mississauga Croatia and played its games at Centennial Stadium. Due to spiraling costs, and poor attendance across the league, the league eventually disbanded, and Toronto Croatia was back in the NSL (National Soccer League).
Towards the late 1980s, many players (and coaches) were brought over from Croatia to help elevate the team and its youth programs. By 1989–90, the team was on its way back to prominence with numerous local and international players making up the team. Some of the notable players arriving at that time were Drago Šantić (Sibenik), Velimir Crljen(Zadar), and Dubravko Ledić (Mostar).
The early 90s saw the team rise to prominence in the community once again as the war had begun in the homeland culminating in a trip to Croatia sponsored by the Croatian Ministry of Sports and culture featuring friendlies against Dinamo Zagreb, Hajduk Split, Osijek, Rijeka, Varazdin, and Tomislavgrad. Similar to the early 70s, the team was now a central focus point within the Croatian community as everyone in diaspora focused on getting the homeland officially recognized. At this time, the NSL was beginning to see an elevated level of play, and the attendance at all league games was beginning to rise. Toronto Croatia consistently had the largest attendance of all teams in the league during this era (1990–95).
With numerous players brought in from Croatia including Josip Lukacevic (Osijek), Ivan Simic (Gosk Jug), Goran Pavlic (Iskra Bugojno), Mate Stanic (Vinkovci), Robert Rupcic (Rijeka) and the local youth system (Toronto Croatia, Mississauga Croatia, etc.) providing young talent (Joe Buntic, Frank Delisimunovic, Rob Milek, Marko Gotovac), the team began to experience success again winning the NSL SuperCup and Croatian North American Soccer tournament. Following these successes were Championships in 1992 and 1995 (PUMA League). During both of those seasons, Toronto Croatia won both the League and Croatian National Tournament for North America.
During this period, many notable players with International experience coached and or played with the team.
Toronto Croatia also played numerous exhibition games against teams from Croatia (Karlovac, Vukovar, Zrinjski) as well as teams from Portugal. In June 1994 Toronto Croatia played a friendly against Beira Mar at Centennial Stadium in front of 3000 fans. Local player Anton Granić scored the only goal for a 1–0 Croatia victory.
In 2006, the club celebrated its 50th anniversary. To commemorate this, the team went on a tour of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Toronto Croatia played the Dinamo Zagreb B team at Maksimir Stadium before the Croatian Supercup, NK Široki Brijeg and NK Primorac Biograd.
In 2007, Toronto Croatia participated in the first ever Croatian World Club Championship in which clubs from the Croatian diaspora compete against each other. The club emerged as the victor of the first tournament with a 3–1 win over Canberra Croatia in the final. The team was awarded the championship trophy by Croatian Football Federation president Vlatko Marković. Toronto Croatia capped off its remarkable year with a 4–1 total goals aggregate victory over the Serbian White Eagles to claim the Canadian Soccer League title.
The team played also every year at Hrvatski ljetni nogometni turnir. One of the best players of all time, Portugal's international Eusébio has played in Toronto Croatia in the 1975–76 season, scoring 18 goals in 25 appearances.
Wiretap evidence from a 2011 bribery case in Germany shows a bribe in the order of €15,000 (C$18,000) was paid to Antonijo Zupan, who was to share it with others on his team, including players. The monies were paid to fix at least one CSL match, on September 12, 2009 v Trois-Rivières Attak.
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|1978||"1"||NASL||3rd||Lost 1st Round|
|1998||"1"||CPSL||8th||Did not qualify|
|2001||"1"||CPSL||6th||Did not qualify|
- North American Soccer League: 1
- National Soccer League: 4
- 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973
- NSL Cup Champions: 2
- 1971, 1972
- NSL Playoff Champions: 2
- 1971, 1974
- Canadian National Soccer League: 1
- CNSL Cup Champions: 4
- 1988, 1989, 1992, 1993
- Canadian International Soccer League: 2
- 1995, 1996
- Canadian Soccer League: 6
- Croatian World Club Championship: 2
- 2007, 2011
- Josip Cvitanović
- Velimir Crljen
- NASL 1976 Champions – Toronto Metros
- H.Lj.N.T. Archived April 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- Eusébio at National-Football-Teams.com
- Ben Rycroft, Alex Shprintsen and Joseph Loiero. "Canadian soccer an easy target for match-fixing – Canada – CBC News". CBC.ca. Retrieved September 13, 2012.
- "EXCLUSIVE | Canadian soccer match fixed by global crime syndicate – Canada – CBC News". CBC.ca. September 12, 2009. Retrieved September 12, 2012.