Toronto FC are playing soccer right now in Florida. It’s the same old story: one of our great local sports franchises has had to play out the regular season south of the border while the pandemic winds down, and in the meantime, we here in Canada have to do without.

But even though Toronto FC aren’t physically in Toronto, they’re still with us in spirit, and to celebrate that Canadian pride, they’ve recently unveiled their 2021 “All For One” home kit, which is designed to honour the diversity and inclusiveness of the city at its finest. And they’ve collaborated with Toronto’s very own TOBi, an artist with a longtime passion for all things TFC.

In addition to helping to promote the new All For One jersey, TOBi has recorded a new original freestyle spoken-word piece to elaborate on the “All for One” theme, which he says is extremely important to him. We caught up with TOBi over Zoom to talk about the collab, his new music, and his life-long love of soccer.

As you can see, I’ve got my TFC jersey on.

What was your first experience with soccer? Did you grow up with it?
I mean, first of all, I first started calling soccer “football.” I grew up in Nigeria, and Nigeria’s a football country. You know what I’m saying? Super Eagles.
Jay-Jay Okocha. You know how that goes. I used to play football barefoot on the streets, on the fuckin—wait, can I swear?

OK, well, on the fucking streets, man. That was my first memory of playing football, just on the street.

I was born in England. It’s the same sort of thing there. How old were you when you moved to Canada?
I was eight.

Tobi posting in a red Toronto FC jersey from the back looking over his shoulder
Image via David Dickenson

That’s about how old I was too. Did you find people weren’t into soccer? When I moved here most people weren’t into it.
I think people around me definitely loved playing soccer. You know what’s wild, bro? I was actually really, really good. I used to play on the school team. This was elementary school, but like, even in the eighth grade, or something like that, I was the soccer MVP. I was like, what’s going on man? That was my first love for sports, for sure. It was definitely soccer.

When did you get into TFC specifically? From the start?
Yeah! It was cool to have an actual soccer team in Toronto. That was so dope to me. I think when I first moved to Canada it was kind of odd that the city didn’t have a soccer team. That’s where that divide is between Europe and Africa and North America. But yeah, to have the team there, and you know, one of my boys is on the team—[Jonathan] Osorio, that’s my dog. So I’ve been supporting them. 

 “I love the city of Toronto and everything it stands for. Let’s get it.”

How’d this collaboration come about? Did you reach out because you were a fan?
They actually reached out to me. It was shortly after I had Osorio on a campaign of mine for my last project. I did a digital and physical magazine called [ELEMENTS] and I had him as one of the people I interviewed for it. Just to get him to talk about life and his love and his passion for soccer. TFC reached out right after. I think it was coincidental. It was a beautiful thing. I love the city of Toronto and everything it stands for. Let’s get it.

Obviously right now TFC isn’t in Toronto. So is the project about bringing Toronto to the team a little?
Oh, yeah, I think that’s definitely part of it. The interesting thing about the pandemic is that it doesn’t matter where you are in the world—we connect over mutual things that we love, and soccer is one of those things. Even you wearing that shirt over there, I’ve got the same jersey in my room, and we connect over that! That’s so cool. It’s like a mutual point. So it doesn’t matter where you are in the world. If you’re repping your city, you’re repping where you from, man, you gotta love it.

Tell me a little about the new home kit.
When they approached me with the idea, “All for One”—listen, I love that idea so much. That’s a theme that I talk about all the time. Even outside the TFC collaboration, it’s something I stand for. I stand for the unity of all human beings, you know what I’m saying? So if we can incorporate that through art, through sports, through discourse, I’m all for it. When they told me what they wanted me to write about, I was like, man, I can do that tomorrow. You’re talking my language. It’s so good when an organization like this aligns with something you believe in.

Tobi posting in a red Toronto FC jersey pointing
Image via David Dickenson

It’s interesting because soccer is so international. I remember seeing a game here once, Team Canada versus Team Peru. And it was probably 90 percent Peru fans.
Really? Wow.

Yeah! Because Canada’s so multicultural, there were tons of Peruvians. Do you find that with your heritage?
I mean, for soccer, it’s Nigeria, it’s not even close [Laughs].

Of course.
But if you want to extend that analogy outside of soccer, yeah, of course, it’s the identity piece, and which side do you lean on more? I embrace the best of both worlds. That’s what my dad always taught me growing up. Take the best from here and the best from there. And you be the Venn diagram.

But as far as soccer goes…
For soccer, yeah, man, for World Cup, you know how we rocking.

This is an unfair advantage. Nigeria’s too good! If you were from some random country with a bad team you maybe wouldn’t leap to support them.
Oh, yeah, it would be much harder. But Super Eagles, man! Can’t lose.

What do you have on the horizon?
I’m definitely going to be putting out music. I’ve been in a real creative space. I’m actually in Los Angeles right now and I’ve been diving in and learning more about myself. I put out that song yesterday, but I’ve got some wild stuff coming up. Be on the lookout, my guy.