A Letter to Toby Charles

Editor’s note: The following is a heartfelt letter from soccer fan Barnett Turk to football commentator Toby Charles and his fans out there. Hope you enjoy it and I hope Toby Charles comes across it. In the meantime, feel free to listen to the exclusive EPL Talk interview we did with Toby Charles here. It’s one of the best ones we did.

I just heard the November 20 interview with Toby Charles. What a pleasure.

It’s obvious that he realizes he had a bit of notoriety here in the states, but I sense he has no idea how deeply his influence truly was among developing American players in those years.

I began playing soccer in Alabama in the mid-70s. At that time, none of us had ever seen more than a few quick clips on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Our sense was that it was a niche sport along the lines of cliff diving or Australian Rules Football. One of the guys had a relative ship us a ball from Germany, a heavy, brown, long-paneled ball, the kind that preceded the 1976 Telstar with stitched hexagons and pentagons that has become the symbol of the sport.

No ball was available because virtually no one was playing the sport in our state, and it was inconceivable that a soccer ball could be found in any sporting goods store in any city, no matter how large.

We began playing the sport by simply whacking the ball back and forth, with no concept of form or strategy. Then one afternoon, a friend said they’d begun showing a program called Soccer Made in Germany on the local PBS station, 6 p.m. Sunday nights. We all gathered at one house to watch for the first time, and I will never forget our reaction. Total silence and a feeling of utter incompetence. We’d been shown the beautiful game and how well it could be played. From then, we never missed a broadcast, and we used what we saw as a textbook for learning the game. We learned basic give-and-go plays, through passes, using wingers and crossing to the middle.

Today, though we’re all approaching 50, many of us are still playing in over-30 and over-40 leagues, where the level of play has become surprisingly good.

As I went off to college and began making my way across the country afterward, there was one common element to nearly every pick-up game I joined, every club team match I participated in, and every practice I attended. From Alabama to St. Louis to Seattle where I eventually settled, I don’t believe I played a single time for more than a decade when I didn’t hear at least one player mimic Toby Charles during play. The obvious “high, wide and not very handsome,” was the most frequent, of course. A shot returned to play by a keeper deflection or a post to the same player for a second shot generally came with “another bite of the cherry.” And a spectacular play-of-the-day type of shot or move was greeted with “Ooooo, they’ll be talking about that one in the pubs tonight.” At halftime or a water break in a pickup game, you’d hear “Halftime, ka-chick ka-chick (he sound effect of a camera shutter fired twice) Newsbreak.” All of it was carefully accented by American players who were getting their weekly dose of international soccer on PBS.

Toby Charles asked you why the show had been so popular here. Simple. The show defined all of us who played the game here in the states from the mid-‘70s to the mid-‘80s. There was little or no cable and absolutely no televised soccer. The sport had become our religion, and there was only one place to go worship…PBS and Soccer Made in Germany. Toby Charles was the high priest. Any American soccer player who played the game during those years adored him and still does. We were not only entertained by his wonderful commentary, but also instructed as we watched. I can’t emphasize how much we learned from those games.

These days, when I hear a Toby Charles quote somewhere on a field, I automatically know a bit about the person without looking. He is probably in his forties with solid skills from playing more than 30 years. Most assuredly, that person is smiling. You simply cannot think of Toby Charles or quote him without a smile.

I can’t tell you how happy it would make me if there’s any chance you can forward this letter to him and let him know how much of an impact he made on an entire generation of players in this country.

Barnett Turk

Listen now to the interview with Toby Charles.

100+ Channels With Sports & News
  • Starting price: $29.99/mo. for fubo Español Package
  • Watch Premier League, LaLiga, Liga MX & MLS
  • Includes NBC, NBCSN, ESPN, FS1, FS2, TUDN, beIN SPORTS and more
Favorite Leagues At The Best Price
  • Starting price: $7.99/mo. for Live TV Package
  • Watch LaLiga, Primeira Liga and Copa Libertadores
  • Includes beIN SPORTS, GolTV, TyC Sports and more
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
  • Price: $5.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $12.99/mo.)
  • Features Serie A, Bundesliga, FA Cup, EFL & more
  • Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
Live TV, Soccer & Originals
  • Starting price: $5.99/mo.
  • Features Champions League, Europa League & NWSL
  • Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
  • Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
  • Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
  • Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more


  1. Kartik April 7, 2008
  2. Steve Colvin April 15, 2008
  3. alexaa May 21, 2008
  4. Noel June 12, 2008
  5. dennis June 14, 2008
  6. dennis June 14, 2008
  7. The Gaffer June 19, 2008
  8. Stevie the K July 20, 2008
  9. Stevie the K July 26, 2008
  10. Greg December 14, 2008
  11. Paul January 28, 2009
  12. John May 17, 2009
  13. Sav July 15, 2009
  14. Martin August 8, 2009
    • The Gaffer August 8, 2009
  15. Martin August 10, 2009
  16. alex August 16, 2009
  17. Patrick October 21, 2009
  18. SP October 28, 2009
  19. BW December 2, 2009
  20. Richard January 24, 2010
  21. Russo April 9, 2010
  22. christine May 22, 2010
  23. kd bart June 10, 2010
    • ganderson December 31, 2014
  24. blues614 June 11, 2010
  25. Jim June 21, 2010
  26. john June 28, 2010
  27. DJN July 5, 2010
  28. John Polhamus July 6, 2010
  29. John Polhamus July 6, 2010
  30. John Polhamus July 6, 2010
  31. Ron September 27, 2010
  32. darrin bowers October 1, 2010
  33. Jason January 28, 2012
  34. John Singer February 9, 2012
  35. Craig Thompson February 23, 2012
  36. John April 1, 2012
  37. abe April 4, 2012
  38. Mike April 24, 2012
    • ganderson December 31, 2014
  39. george May 4, 2012
  40. ken June 12, 2012
  41. Mks61 June 30, 2012
  42. Mks61 June 30, 2012
  43. Mks61 June 30, 2012
  44. Sapper August 4, 2012
  45. Sapper August 4, 2012
  46. Shirlene Brown April 16, 2013
  47. Cesar Sastre April 17, 2013
  48. Johnny Domino June 20, 2013
  49. Max Neuberger September 15, 2013
  50. mike September 21, 2013
  51. mike September 21, 2013
  52. ke October 14, 2013
  53. David Ziegler August 17, 2016
  54. johnnydomino June 14, 2018

Leave a Reply

Translate »