This morning we officially said goodbye to Torsten Frings. The official announcement was all over the internet just before 9am this morning but we tuned in for the official press conference at 11am to see the man himself say farewell.
It was short and sweet. It took less than 20 minutes for the official Torsten Frings retirement press conference (watch it again on TorontoFC TV) to end. Fitting in that Frings has always been a man of few words who preferred to let his actions speak for him. Looking somber and emotional Frings spoke about his regret at not being able to contribute to the team and continue on playing. While the bulk of the conference was about Frings and his retirement, President Payne did briefly touch on the future of the club in regards to potential signings and the future of the club this year. But today, today was about saying goodbye to the best player to ever wear a TFC jersey.
The presser started off straight away with Frings: "This is an emotional day for me because I've decided to retire. I need too much time to get 100% fit...so we decided to do this and that's it". Straight, to the point, that's our captain. And that's quite honestly the best answer he could have given. As the true professional that he is, he felt that he could not go forward with the club if he couldn't play right away. Especially if it was going to take several months before there was even a chance that he could take to the pitch.
When questioned about whether or not he was ever actually at full fitness both Frings and Kevin Payne made it clear that he arrived in camp at full fitness. During his time rehabbing and training both back in Germany and upon his arrival in Toronto and Florida the focus had been on running and endurance. It was only once the true football part of training began that the hip injury once again flared up. His body was unable to withstand the twists, turns, sudden stops and movement required to play on a daily basis. The team even went so far as to consult Alex McKechnie the current director of sports science for the Raptors and an expert on the type of injury suffered by Frings last year. When it was made clear that it could be months, or even never, before Frings recovered from the injury the difficult decision to hang up his boots was made.
This decision was also made because Torsten hopes to coach in the future, saying "I think it's the best for because I have a life after my soccer career". This future will also include an ongoing relationship with TFC and a potential connection with Werder Bremen, with whom Frings not only has a longstanding professional and personal tie, but in the past has mentioned returning there to coach some day. Right now Payne said that Frings will help the club scout for talent in Germany and that more will hopefully come of the relationship in the future.
When asked about his best memories of his time with Toronto FC, he immediately mentions the CCL match in Nicaragua, laughing about the state of the pitch, "I saw the pitch and it was unbelievable to play on...", and then the game against the LA Galaxy at the SkyDome last March, "I have had a lot of good experience here and I just want to say thank-you to the city.". He later went on to talk about his love for Toronto as a city; "It's a great city. I love Toronto." , also adding that "I want to come back every year, maybe for vacation. It was a great experience for me (playing for the TFC franchise)."
And while yes there was talk of the future of TFC and what new players may be coming in - see Dave's piece detailing the potential new signings/loans - the focus of the morning remained; rightly; on Frings. And kudos to President Payne for steering the conversation back to him several times. There is, well not plenty of time to discuss the very necessary next steps for the club - 4 days to First Kick! Eek! - but that is not what today was about. Today was about honouring the contributions of a world class player. A player that while we never got to see play at his best, that we were fortunate to see play in front of us at all. Below is a clip of my (and I'm sure many of you as well) favourite memory of Torsten Frings:
So what next for Kevin Payne, Ryan Nelsen and TFC? Well that remains to be seen. Whether any of the current (and upcoming) trialists will be signed to loan deals and when is the burning question for all TFC fans, regardless of how patient you're feeling. With the squad looking woefully thin for this weekend's match against Vancouver for MLS First Kick it's most likely going to be a painful start for our Reds.
But remember, Frings wouldn't have been part of that start even had he stayed - better to say goodbye now, on good terms, on his terms than subject him to the rigors of playing on plastic, dealing with the slog of MLS travel and most likely watching from the bench instead of leading the team on the pitch; where he belongs.
Thank you Torsten, for showing us what a world class player looks like - even one not at his full capacity. It was a thrill to watch you play. See you next year when you're in town on vacation - look us up for a drink - one thing for sure you'd never have to pay for a single one. Danke!