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Mr. Kim, the Azzurri’s
biggest fan in Toronto

TORONTO – Think what you want, but for my money (perceived partnership aside), the biggest fan of the Italia soccer team – the Azzurri – in this European Cup is Mr. Kim. He is our neighbour (Korean), a reseller of knock-off Tee-shirts, team jerseys, soccer paraphernalia and flags. No disrespect intended towards his Woodbridge Italian counterpart.

He was beyond himself with excitement when the Italy team destroyed number one ranked Belgium to advance to the semi-final of the UEFA European Cup. Had they lost, it would have been disastrous for him.

How sombre would it have been to see a parade of black, orange and red flags if the outcome had been different? Our reseller said, “no market”, not even for those ugly, faded, tomato-red teams. Not many Belgians in our neighbourhood and no fans anyway.

Ditto for Germans (and their colours), who lost to the English side. Too bad that fans of the English side are notoriously cheap so they will not be buying flags or team wear, our distributer grumbled.

Try not to have your delicate feelings hurt. This is a multicultural, multiethnic part of town, and an international soccer tournament is also about the sport of beating the heck out of the other guy – just because “he is the other guy”. And it is about selling jerseys and flags in a motivated market.

Poor guy, with Portugal suffering defeat at the hands of the Swiss, he had lost his second biggest clientele (in our area, the biggest) as the Portuguese market dried up. Not even Ronaldo could breathe life into his business. Prices dropped like a millstone thrown over a cliff. Partisan fans do not normally buy symbols of competing teams.

What would he do with excess inventory? Surely, June being “the month” for every recognizable community, he could sell off flags by the countless hundreds, I asked. He responded drily, “Do they have a soccer team in the tournament?”

Italia still does. Every time it wins, the team jersey’s price goes up. The ones I bought for my grandkids tripled in price. Mr. Kim’s slow-release marketing strategy saw to that. It takes the sting out of the Portugal elimination.

“Long live Italia”, says Mr. Kim, “It is the only colour that matters”.

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