He was well on his way to becoming a soccer star and perhaps a Hall of Famer when injury forced him to pursue a career in policing.
While Peter Sloly has shone in law enforcement rising to become Toronto Police Service’s (TPS) youngest deputy chief in just 21 years, he admits it took him almost a decade to overcome the disappointment of a shortened soccer career.
“There was a long time when I felt disappointed,” said Sloly who was presented with the Brian Budd memorial award at the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame induction ceremony last Saturday in Toronto. “I left the game sooner than I would have wanted to and a lot of my initial dreams as a young man were dashed.
“There was always a hint of regret in my own professional life. Policing has been a great career for me, but it took about 10 years for me to realize that part of my life (soccer) was behind me and it was time to focus on my rewarding career as a police officer.”
For a few hours last Saturday, Sloly was reunited with his sports passion.
The Brian Budd award recognizes past players who have demonstrated dedication and leadership on and off the pitch but do not have the credentials to be in the Hall of Fame.
A former sportscaster and Canadian centre forward with seven senior national caps, Budd passed away in June 2008.
Sloly, the second recipient of the award after late hockey/soccer player Peter Zezel, watched Budd play at Exhibition Stadium and is honoured to be recognized with an award in his name.
“While he wasn’t the most talented player in the world, what Brian did after his career was over to promote the sport was notable,” Sloly said. “To have a chance now to even have my name associated with these folks going into the Hall and to have my name inside the Hall of Fame even though I am not a member sort of closes a circle that was opened a long time for me. The skills, character development and experience of playing the sport at a high level for a short time have really being of great value to me in my policing career.”
The intersection between soccer and policing for Sloly began soon after his arrival in Toronto from Jamaica in 1976 when he met then TPS officer John Knox who was coaching the St. Andrews Club.
“John was the first coach who recognized some talent in me and helped me hone my skills and progress into the provincial rep program and the junior national team,” the former mid-field player said.
Teammates voted Sloly the Most Valuable Player in the 1984 Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Associations of Soccer (CONCACAF) junior World Cup qualifier in Trinidad & Tobago and he was an integral part of the national side at the International Soccer Federation (FIFA) Under-20 World Cup the following year in Russia. His teammates included Alex Bunbury who is in the Hall of Fame and Under-17 women’s coach Bryan Rosenfeld.
Sloly made his lone appearance for the national senior team in a FIFA-sanctioned tournament in Egypt in 1986, playing the entire match in a side that featured Hall of Famers Paul Dolan, Paul James, Randy Ragan and Bruce Wilson.
He also returned to Jamaica that year for a series of exhibition matches in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Kingston.
“It was my first time back since I left and I remember vividly that they did not have a recording of the Canadian anthem for our final game at the National Stadium in Kingston,” Sloly said. “We had to sing the anthem. That was an amazing moment for me singing the anthem of my new home in the land of my birth.”
Sloly was introduced to the fans with the Hall of Fame inductees before last Saturday’s Toronto FC match with Philadelphia Union at BMO field. He also got the opportunity to meet former Vancouver Whitecaps and Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar – one of his favourite players – who was the induction ceremony dinner speaker last Saturday night.
In his 14 years with the club, Grobbelaar won six league titles, three Football Association (FA) Cup medals, three Football League Cup Winner’s championships and a European Cup medal.
“As a kid growing up, Liverpool was definitely one of my favourite teams because of all the success they had in the 1980s,” said Sloly. “I also rooted for Leeds United. But when it comes to a country, Brazil stands out for their level of artistry.”
Sloly also represented the Toronto Blizzard, the North York Rockets and Scarborough Azzuri.