The USA Ultimate Championship is arguably the highest level tournament in the world, comprised of the top club teams in North America. There may not be any Japanese or Colombian sqauds, but there are very few weak teams that qualify, especially with the new regular season qualifying process. But why should American and Canadian players have all the fun? Playing elite level club Ultimate in sunny Florida is a desire of many foreign players, so it’s no surprise when they show up eager to compete with the world’s best.
This year, Toronto’s GOAT has added several very good players with an international background to their squad. Swedish star Sebastian Sporrong and England’s leader Justin Foord have joined up and will play alongside a third European, Swiss resident Nasser M’Bae Vogel, back again after a strong performance in 2011. One of Europe’s top players for many years now, Vogel was thrilled to get invited to play for Ironside in 2010. He played with them, first at Worlds in Prague, then remained on the team for the club series. The following year, with his friend disembarking from the Boat, he joined up with more friends on GOAT to continue the experience.
Foord and Vogel are considered “outsiders” on the roster, but Sporrong has been living in Toronto now since the beginning of September and meets the eligibility requirements for a “resident” (regional residence for the majority of September and October). He has been one of the most regular bodies at practices and says he is having loads of fun and loving the experience. He is playing on the offensive line and seems to be fitting in pretty well with all of GOAT’s O-line strategies.
Mark Lloyd, Toronto Rush co-owner and main GOAT handler, said, “It was easy integrating him into the team. From the beginning he was an easy player to read. He is such a smart player, it is easy to tell where he is going to cut.” Sporrong had already played with Vancouver’s Furious George in 2008, when he remained in Vancouver after Worlds to play for the Monkey.
The original source of all this talent is GOAT’s stand out Russian player Anatoly Vasilyev, “Toly” to the boys. Vasilyev came to Canada and Toronto in 2006, winning the Canadian University Nationals with the University of Toronto Torontulas and the local Toronto Club Championship with Sweet. He joined GOAT the same year and immediately made an impact there as well. However, before he arrived in Toronto, he spent a couple of years living in Sweden. While there he teamed up with some local lads to play beach at Paganello in 2004.
After he settled in Toronto, the loveable Russian continued to play Paganello with his Swedish freinds and soon convinced GOAT players Jeff Lindquist and Inian Moorthy along with Vogel to join him at the infamous tournament. All three played at least a few years with the Swedes on a squad called Team Stinks. (Amusingly that led to the announcer introducing the upcoming matches: “next game, Other team’s name, Stinks”). Foord played against them at Paganello and became friends with the Canadians as well, and Lindquist invited him to join up.
Vogel likes the fun GOAT atmosphere and fit in well last year playing both O and D, while Foord, who hasn’t practiced as much with the team, will likely play defense, though he has many offensive weapons in his arsenal. Unlike Sporrong, Foord and Vogel returned to Europe after Regionals because of life’s commitments and will rejoin the squad for the Club Championships.
In the past the Herd has been a temporary home for other European players. England’s David Pichler and Sweden’s Joel Hogborg were on board in 2009, Hogborg moving to Toronto in August of that year. Pichler flew in just for Nationals and turned out to be a perfect fit, so the door remains open if he would like to return. Hogborg, a primary handler for Sweden, is a good friend of Vasilyev, so he could be back too. In 2010, the year GOAT missed qualifying for the Club Championships, Great Britain player Jamie Cross was a member of the team.
Toronto is home to one of the world’s most diverse and multicultural populations. There are over 140 languages and dialects spoken and no matter who wins Soccer’s World Cup, there will be a major celebration somewhere in town, so maybe the team make-up is just a reflection of the city’s inclusive nature. In the end, GOAT is just like any other team, a bunch of like minded frisbee freaks who ended up on the same team. No special recruiting drives to find elite players from Europe, as some may have suspected, just a few good friends who happen to live in Canada and Europe and share common interests: playing high level Ultimate, drinking cold beer, and good grog. The Herd also wanted me to mention that a star O line player was absent from Regionals. Who could that be?
Photos are the author’s, except those of Sporrong and Team Stinks, which comes courtesy of Vasilyev.
Tagged Anatoly Vasilyev, Club Championships, David Pichler, GOAT, Inian Moorthy, international, Jeff LIndquist, Joel Hogborg, Justin Foord, Mark Lloyd, Nasser M'Bae Vogel, Sebastian Sporrong, Toronto Rush, USA Ultimate