On the surface, the argument for Dwayne De Rosario is one of respect.
The Toronto FC star lashed out at the “terrible” artificial playing surface at BMO Field, which the club said yesterday will spend nearly $250,000 to cover with temporary grass for an Aug. 7 match against European soccer titan Real Madrid.
While calling the international friendly “a special moment” for TFC fans and players, De Rosario said he’s irked that it takes a visit by the Spanish side to replace, at least temporarily, a field that has long been criticized as troublesome for ball control and too hard on players’ bodies.
“We don’t get that respect,” said De Rosario, a Scarborough native and nine-year Major League Soccer veteran who came home to play with TFC after an off-season trade with the Houston Dynamo.
“It’s one of those things where you look at it as a player and you’re disappointed that it takes a team like Real Madrid to come here to get grass,” he said. “We work hard everyday here … day in, day out.
“We deserve grass.”
Though there’s general agreement among other players, coaches, club owners Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and politicians that replacing the Field Turf with grass is a good idea, it’s not as simple as it may sound.
A key part of the deal to secure government funding for the $63-million facility was providing year-round public access to the playing field. That’s why artificial turf was put in and a bubble goes up each winter.
Also, the temporary grass can only be left on the artificial field for about a week before it would start to die.
If permanent grass was installed, a tab MLSE would pay, there’s still the matter of where to accommodate the public use. Both Mayor David Miller and Joe Pantalone, deputy mayor and chairman of the Exhibition Place board, have said while they like the idea of a natural playing surface, there needs to be a year-round facility downtown for Torontonians, paid for by TFC’s owners.
One idea floated by MLSE officials has been to build a TFC practice facility adjacent to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ new four-rink complex at Kipling and Lake Shore and offer some public access there. But Pantalone has voiced concerns that it would not be close enough to downtown.
Converting Lamport Stadium in the King-Dufferin area to year-round use has also been discussed.
In addition to detailing the cost of the temporary grass field for the Real Madrid game, TFC also announced Thursday that for the match TFC season-ticket holders and members of both gold and red waiting lists will be able to buy tickets at “a special loyalty price” in advance of a public sale.
Details, including the cost of tickets to the premium-priced event, will be made public Monday.
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