Canales Daily: Go, Canada!

Once again, Canada is setting the standard in doing the right thing, removing the artificial turf at BMO Field in Toronto to install grass for the 2010 Major League Soccer season.
By Andrea Canales

There are moments of grace and clarity which really do descend like that light from the heavens as the clouds part. People turn their faces up to the shining aura of rightness and feel not only blessed, but filled with wonder and hope.

A few days ago, the powers that be said, "Let there be grass at BMO field." And the city council of Toronto passed the resolution to make it so.

And there was great rejoicing.

Grass, living and growing in the jewelbox of Toronto's stadium, the vibrant, cushiony blades providing the right amount of bounce for the ball and the forgiving landing for falling players, is finally going in at BMO.

It's also not temporary, as previous grass installations have been in the stadium.

Finally, finally, BMO Field will have a surface that Canada's national team will actually want to play on.

In fact, Canadian teams were so inspired by the move on their behalf, that they promptly went out and defeated the US USL-1 teams to create an all-Canadian championship in that league.

Well, ok, so the timing is off on that correlation, but the Montreal Impact and the Vancouver Whitecaps are in the USL final.

Bottom line, things are looking up for Canada.

Stick around, Dwayne DeRosario. With true grass beneath your feet, you can have a long career with Toronto FC, a team that has a spiffy stadium that's worthy of your talent.

Julian DeGuzman, you didn't make a mistake in coming back from Europe. Toronto is ready to invest not only in you as a player, but in top-notch facilities for the entire team that don't take a backseat to those on the continent. 

DeGuzman, center | New Toronto FC player

Tomasz Radzinski, where are you? I remember you told fellow Canadian national teammates you hated artificial turf, and would never play for a team that had such a stadium. Well, pick up that ringing phone from TFC, because they could use a wily experienced striker to get on the end of passes from DeGuzman and DeRosario, and well, you could use a change from the Belgian second-division.

It is simply inspiring that Toronto has stepped forward to amend the travesty of the plastic surface at BMO and install the natural environment for the sport that is actually played there.

Soccer on an artificial surface makes no more sense than basketball played on a dirt court.

Yes, I've played both games on both surfaces. I understood the necessity that constituted each situation and was willing to adapt. But I'm a recreational player in the two sports.

The game at a professional level should be played in the proper conditions. A grass surface should be just as crucial an element as having linespeople at a match.

No more lectures, however, it's time to celebrate. I'm finding a Moosehead beer with which to toast the whole country.

More high-quality visiting teams are going to make a stop in Toronto now, I predict. The stadium has always been nice, and with the right surface in place permanently, there won't be the issues there always are with the slippery, bumpy turf of temporary fields.

I also wouldn't be surprised to see TFC post a better record next season. After all, since most of MLS has grass fields, the players will be more adept on the surface instead of having to readjust their styles slightly every other game.

Real Madrid playing in Toronto

The quality of the soccer played at BMO should also rise. Often on turf fields, players feel uncomfortable and hang back in a tight defensive shape, unwilling to trust a passing game on the too-stiff surface. Balls are booted far over the top of the defense, while players try to run on to a lucky bounce. Players also avoid proper slide tackles, so a key element of competitive play is missing.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, really, that Toronto made the switch. Canadians are generally very reasonable people - witness how long they've had universal health care as one example.

Soccer is meant to be played on grass. Ice hockey played with in-line skates in a roller rink just isn't the same sport.

What's obviously a good move shouldn't be terribly complicated or difficult, but Toronto did have to make some sacrifices, as BMO field won't be open to as many community activities as before. In return for city approval, the owners of TFC are investing in another local stadium for community activities.

Now that Toronto has seen the light, perhaps FIFA will revisit their standards, eliminate exceptions and mandate grass fields for all World Cup qualifying games.

In the meantime, from far and wide, we see Canada rise in the soccer world. The conversion of BMO field stands as a witness to this progress.

Every time an artificial turf field goes to grass, a butterfly claps its wings. Listen carefully to hear it.

Andrea Canales is Chief Editor of North America

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