Before the world of sports came to a screeching halt, GLORY had the chance to connect with Toronto FC’s Liam Fraser. The world of sports was still abuzz, the air full of optimism at what the future could hold. Fraser was a few weeks away from the start of the MLS season opener for TFC. With Michael Bradley expected to be out for ankle surgery, the talk around the club was filled with a tone of excitement about what Liam would bring to the field as a starting midfielder. Here he shares some of those sentiments, and what a future in the now uncertain Olympics might mean.
What was your experience growing up in Toronto?
I was born downtown and I lived in the Danforth area for a while, then moved over to Leaside. I actually moved to Vancouver when I was young, in 2005 to 2013, so I was there until I was fifteen years old. From fifteen to now, I’ve been in Toronto. I feel like who I am today and who I represent, my family and how I act off the field and on the field is very Toronto-esque. I feel like Toronto is more rugged and raw than Vancouver. Vancouver is a lot more pretty and not so rough around the edges. From 15-years-old to now, learning about the city, learning about yourself, the people I’ve met who are from Toronto have crafted me as a person and who I am as a player. I always let people [in Vancouver] know that I was born in Toronto, I was raised in Toronto and that I was not born in Vancouver. That was a statement I was making to whoever was asking.
A pro career isn’t common coming from Canada. How did you get introduced to the game and when did the reality of playing pro dawn on you?
It was my Dad that introduced me and gave me that opportunity in football — and to think of it as an opportunity, as opposed to just a sport. That, if you are dedicated and motivated for it, then it’s there for the taking. Football was my everything and I knew that I could do that; I had the platform and system around me to be able to do that. When I moved out to Vancouver, I was pushed hard by my Dad and my coaches, and I joined the academy system with the Vancouver Whitecaps. I was there for 4 to 5 years and when my family moved back to Toronto, I had the opportunity to join TFC right away and from there I signed with the academy and I’ve been with them ever since. Coming to Toronto and seeing that, I’m coming across the country and this is new, but I have to make a name for myself, it puts the thought in your head that, ‘this is up for the taking, this could be your career’. You have to be motivated, dedicated and know your priorities in life and this is what I want to do.
Canadian athletes from the NBA to Tennis are making noise in the top 50 and the top 10. Do you see football in Canada at a similar place? Are we on the verge of a similar wave?
Without a doubt. It’s motivating to feel like I’m a part of it and hopefully helping to kick start it. It inspires me to want to push more. I think us beating the United States last year at home in Toronto, when both teams were all in; it was the first time we beat them in 34 years — that was a statement.
That definitely pushed the sport in Canada so much further than anybody expected. The amount of memes that went around and the amount of people talking about the game and what happened was unbelievable. That was definitely crazy. I feel like we are a couple of steps behind basketball or hockey, or Bianca Andreescu and those tennis players that are making noise for Canada. I think we are a couple of steps behind them, but in the grand scheme of things, the pace at which soccer in Canada has just blown up has been so far past how basketball, hockey and tennis have blown up. They might be bigger right now, but on a scale of how quickly soccer has been growing, it’s incomparable.
I’m guessing that the young core on the National Team see things similar to you, that you know that you can be one of the best in the world. You’re not questioning if you can if you can be good for Canada, but you’re thinking you can be one of the best on the planet?
That’s the mentality you have to go in with if you want to be the best at anything. You gotta have that mentality and set yourself up for success. Ultimately, it’s about being the best player that you can be, if that means you can be one of the best in the world and a top footballer, if you’re pushing yourself and you are motivated, I don’t see a reason why that can’t happen.
You’ve said in previous interviews that you get a lot of inspiration from LeBron James. What are things that you have specifically learned from LeBron, been inspired by and applied that he has shared?
There are massive parts about him, off the court, and obviously on the court doing the things that he does for basketball, for his team and the winning mentality he has is unbelievable. There’s stuff that athletes like myself and other young athletes can take from him. The amount of money he spends on recovery for his body to make sure he is ready for that next game, to give him that opportunity to be the best. How he changed his mind with nutrition. To be the person and the player that he is and anything he does, regardless if it’s a drill in training, one-on-one with his son or winning a championship, he wants to win and that mentality is something that you are born with, but also have to work at.
What are your goals for Tokyo?
It’s a hard one. For our qualification, it’s the exact same time for the Men’s National Team. I’ve been a part of the core group of the Men’s National Team for the past 8 or 9 months, so I’m assuming they are going to call me and I’ll have to miss the Olympic qualification. If that doesn’t happen and I get selected for qualification, then that’s going to be win-or-nothing. We have to qualify for that. We have to make a statement. The Olympics is the first big opportunity to do that. Regardless if I’m in the qualification or not, if our team makes it there and I have the opportunity to go, then I wouldn’t pass that up. Going to the Olympics is a life-changing experience, you can connect with people, you can brand yourself, you can play football for the whole world to see and that is the coolest part about it. Any opportunity you get to compare yourself on an international stage to the greatest players at your age in the world, it’s up for the taking and an honour in itself.