Jay Chapman is from a new generation of Ontarians, a generation that has seen the rise of Toronto’s social and sporting landscape as the city continues to reach new heights.
Through his on-field exploits and off-the-field efforts, the 23-year-old is helping to change the narrative and show the world just how much Canada has to offer.
Born in Brampton, Chapman was just a stone’s throw from the city for much of his childhood, the place where his love for the game was born.
“I’ve been all over Ontario to play soccer, but I’ve always had roots in Toronto,” he says. “There’s a little bit of everything here. It’s not a city where you’re limited in any way.”
As Chapman grew up, so too did the soccer culture throughout the city, spurred on by the formation of Toronto FC in 2007.
“With all the different cultures from Europe and South America, there was always a passion for soccer around here,” he says. “As soon as TFC was formed, it was like a bright light that lit up the city.”
Admittedly, Chapman didn’t envision himself suiting up for the Reds right away, as the dream seemed almost too surreal to be realized for a kid still making his way through the Ontario Youth Soccer League.
You have to have confidence in yourself. Throughout your career, there are going to be really high highs and really low lows. You just have to stay positive and believe in yourself.
That all changed when he found himself signing a Homegrown contract for the Reds in 2015.
“It’s pretty crazy; it’s not something many people get to do. I remember growing up with friends that had the same aspirations that I had, and to be able to live out my dreams is pretty crazy. You overlook it sometimes, but when you step back and appreciate how lucky you are to be a professional soccer player in the city that you came from, it’s pretty special.”
Continuing to carve out his place within the squad, Chapman joins an ever-growing contingent of local products that have given the young Ontarians a goal to aspire towards as he continues to make his dream a reality.
“We’re definitely trying to pave the way for Canadians, especially in this city,” he says. “It’s a country that’s on the rise and there’s a lot of talent here. We want to show these kids that it’s possible to make it here. Now with the TFC academy starting at younger ages, there are lots more opportunities than when I was growing up.”
As the soccer scene continues to grow, the city has evolved right alongside it. It’s a process Chapman has witnessed first-hand.
“There are few better cities than Toronto right now,” he says. “Everyone wants to come here. People have nothing but good things to say about it, which is a testament to the way that this city has come together. Every year you see new construction and new industry, it’s all really positive for the growth of this city.”
Moving from the suburbs into the city proper, Chapman has come to find new appreciation for Toronto and all that it has to offer.
“King Street and Queen Street are the two best streets in Toronto,” he says. “You get a ton of shopping on Queen, which I love to do. Then on King, you have a lot of restaurants and unique little coffee shops. There’s always a good vibe on these streets and you get a real sense of the city from being around here.”
Chapman still has dreams of traveling the world, something that the game of soccer has allowed him to do quite frequently. And while a new set of adventures could be just around the corner, the Canadian is eager to make good on one unfulfilled dream in a place that means everything to him.
“To bring the cup to Toronto would mean everything to me,” he admits. “There was an aura around the city during our MLS Cup run; you would hear people talking about it on the street. Seeing how we brought this city alive, that’s a feeling that you strive for.
“I love traveling the world and I’m lucky that soccer has taken me to some amazing places, but Toronto is always home. It’s a city that I hold close to my heart for many different reasons. When it’s all said and done, this is where I want to be.”