When Tottenham Hotspur take to the field to face the MLS All-Star team at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Wednesday (6 p.m. PT on TSN), one Major League Soccer club owner in particular will be an avid viewer.
Former NBA star Steve Nash is a lifelong Tottenham fan. He's also been a part-owner of Vancouver Whitecaps FC since July 2008 in their pre-MLS days.
Nash's father hails from North London. It's Tottenham territory and it's bona fide Spurs blood that runs through his family's blood.
“My grandparents supported Spurs, my dad, everyone. So it was a long-standing tradition,” Nash told MLSSoccer.com. “We used to go over every year.”
Growing up as a kid in Canada in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, following a team from England wasn't always easy. But Nash made sure to find a way and has early memories of supporting Tottenham.
“We would, fairly regularly, get a game on the West Coast of Canada,” Nash recalled. “Every Saturday morning, early, there'd be a game. I think once a month it would be Spurs, or something like that. I remember them in the Cup finals in ’81 and ’82. I must have been six, seven years old. I had my kit on and was up early. The whole bit.”
As Nash got older, and his own athletic career started to take off, the opportunities to watch Tottenham play live in England got harder to come by. Having twin daughters in October 2004 was another factor that limited his trips overseas.
“I don't sadly,” Nash said when asked if he sees them play live as much as he’d like. “Especially with the kids, their schedules and stuff. My girls are 10 now, so the last 10 years I've only been over to see them once. I've seen them play over here, but it's not the same.”
Other commitments will prevent Nash from heading to Colorado this week to watch his favourite club. Now retired from the NBA, Nash is the general manager for the Canada men’s national basketball team and is heading home with his family after helping to guide Canada to their first-ever medal, a silver, at the Pan Am Games.
The best of David Ousted so far this season
He may not be in Denver in person, but he will be watching Wednesday's match closely, with one eye on Spurs and one on Whitecaps FC goalkeeper David Ousted.
So any mixed allegiances for the big game?
“I want Spurs to win,” Nash admitted. “Obviously, I want David [Ousted] to do well and I want the MLS team to do well. I can never ever see myself wanting Spurs to lose. But if Spurs played the Whitecaps, in the [Club World Cup] say, that would be a good problem to have.”
Nash knows all about All-Star games in his own sport. The Canadian is an eight-time NBA All-Star and two-time league MVP. But while he’s the best basketball player Canada has ever produced, he also grew up playing soccer – and could likely have played at the professional level if he had chosen that path.
With a deep-set love for the game, when he had the opportunity to invest in the ‘Caps seven years ago, he jumped at it.
Today, Nash is one of four investors in Whitecaps FC. Although his day-to-day involvement has been somewhat limited by his own successful sporting and business career, Nash feels it's been everything he could have hoped for so far.
“I'm not very hands on, yet,” Nash admitted. “But I just love being a fan. Having a little bit of a stake in the team makes it even more exciting. It's great when I come home and I see people with Whitecaps gear on and people excited about the team. It makes it all worthwhile.”
Another aspect of the ‘Caps that Nash finds exciting right now is the direction that the club is taking under the management of head coach Carl Robinson.
The Welshman may still be halfway through his second season with Whitecaps FC, but his stamp on the team is already being deeply felt and appreciated by Nash and his fellow owners.
“I think he's been great,” Nash said of Robinson. “For one, the guys respect him and enjoy working with him. He's straightforward with them and honest and he's built a really nice-fitting culture. The project just keeps moving forward as far as the club in general on all fronts.”
Robinson has the team in the upper echelons of the MLS league table. And while Vancouver will surely have dreams of making a deep run in this year's postseason, Nash is equally excited about the club's long-term prospects.
“Continuing to build and continuing to be more familiar [with the league],” Nash said. “We've done a good job in the scouting department. To keep refining our ability to scout the world, not only for the first team, but for our academy. Our academy is really making strides.”
“That's a huge part of what we're trying to do,” he continued. “That's the long-term vision. That's what we want to do – on the football side build a culture and have an understanding with our fans of how we want to play and what we represent. And scouting and the academy, for our long-term vision, [we want to] use them to grow talent.”
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