Soccer star Sebastian Giovinco can hardly believe his career brought him and his family to Toronto, where they (and his massive sneaker collection!) are now newly moved into a beautiful four-storey townhouse in a quiet pocket of the city. Dubbed “the Atomic Ant” for his speed and stature, the native of Italy was recruited to the Toronto Football Club in 2015, making the move with his longtime sweetheart, Sharj Milano, 31, and their infant son, Jacopo, now five.
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The couple's modern home features a chic black-and-white tiled floor in the dining room
They've since welcomed daughter Alma, who turns two in August, and the celebrated soccer player – who led the way to TFC’s first-ever championship – is as comfortable on the field as he is in his role as a dad, relishing his time with his little ones, who he calls “vitamia” or “my life.” But he also remembers being a child himself, kicking a ball through the streets of Turin, where he could only dream of a sporting career, let alone the day he’d become a star of the game and see jerseys emblazoned with his surname.
We caught up with the 31-year-old, who got his professional start back in Italy in 2007, to learn how this atomic ant is carrying his family, a new lifestyle, a championship team and the weight of an entire city on his back, all with an infectious smile on his face.
The tight-knit family loves spending time together
Moving from Italy to Canada just three years ago must have been a big shock, Sebastian. What was your first impression? I came here in February, and it was a different kind of cold than I’d ever felt. [ Laughs] But when you change lifestyles for your family, you don’t care about anything. I was looking forward to the summer.
How long did it take to feel like a new home?
Sebastian: Quickly, after maybe one year. This is a beautiful place for families and to live, so it was an easy choice.
How did you two meet?
Sharj: We were 19 years old and I was working in a mall in his hometown. He saw me on a break and sent a friend of his to ask for my number. I said no because he should have asked himself! Finally, he did and we went on a real date. I would travel back and forth from school to where he was playing until it didn’t make sense anymore, and we moved in together.
"In an Italian kitchen, there are a lot of carbs, sweet stuff and cheese," Sharj says
Is that when you decided she was the one? Yes! And I knew I wanted to have kids with her.
Sharj: We never had to say that we’d stay together forever. It was a feeling that just came freely.
When there’s time for date nights, what do you like to do?
Sebastian: I like to try new restaurants, and there are a few good ones [we’ve tried], like Sotto Sotto and Capocaccia. But she loves to stay home.
Sharj: We used to say that we needed at least one date night a week, but that never worked out, especially when he’s training. And even when we do get to go out, I want to be back home with the kids.
Your kids are still quite young, but have you started to see any of yourselves in them? Jacopo never stops moving! Just like his dad. He plays soccer everywhere, at home, in the park, at school. Alma is a little sweeter and cuddlier, which is also a lot like Sebastian.
Five-year-old Jacopo can often be found in his playroom practicing soccer
Did you teach Jacopo your soccer moves, Sebastian? No, I think it’s natural! I never taught him anything, he’s just a natural.
Does he understand how famous his dad is? Because soccer isn’t as big here as it is in Italy, they don’t see too much of a fuss being made. The fans are much more respectful here. If we’re out, they just come up and nicely ask for a photo or an autograph. It’s become normal for Jacopo.
Sharj: There are a few things about our life that we want him to know are not normal. Like his father has a large collection of shoes and not every person can have that. I want them to know that everything isn’t easy and they have to work for the things they want.
How many pairs of shoes do you think are in your collection, Sebastian? About 100 here and probably the same amount at our home in Italy. Maybe more, because I have more room for them there.
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Sebastian has a huge sneaker collection (he estimates 100 pairs in Toronto!)
Who has the eye for design when it comes to your homes?
Sharj: Sebastian loves to take care of this stuff. I don’t like to spend the time on finding things, but he‘ll go online, find a lot of things he likes, and will cut it down to two choices and that’s when we talk about it.
Sebastian: For us, the most important thing about moving into this home was the space. We were in an apartment before we had Alma and knew we needed a bigger place. We’re all so happy here.
You seem to be a very tight-knit family. We like to spend a lot of time together. As long as the kids are happy, we’re happy.
Sharj: We taught Jacopo to use the voice-message option on a phone, so if he needs something he can send me a voice message. We had to go to a place where the kids couldn’t come, and we told him if he really needs something to send one. He sent one every 10 minutes saying he missed me.
Jacopo and two-year-old Alma have their own floor with their bedrooms
Sebastian, Toronto wasn’t much of a soccer city before you got here. Have you actively tried to raise interest in the sport? I think the only thing you can do is bring people to the stadium and win, every game, every season, every championship...I play with passion, in every single game.
It’s far off in the future, but what does retirement look like to you? I’d like to open my own soccer academy in the city. In Italy, soccer is a way of life, but here it’s just a sport. I want to teach young players how to love the game.