Empire Field Report

February 14, 2011 at 5:41 am | Posted in My Own Footy Memories, Vancouver Whitecaps In MLS | Leave a comment

Today I got to play at Empire Field where the Vancouver Whitecaps will play the first part of their inaugural Major League Soccer season.

I have to say I was thrilled to be able to play there, because I spent many hours practicing and playing in the old Empire Stadium from the age of 16 with the Vancouver Whitecaps youth team when the Whitecaps were in the North American Soccer League.

Now I am playing in the old timers league (I call it the viagra league) and never thought I would get the chance to play on the pitch where the new Whitecaps will play.

Empire field is hallowed ground, where Alan Ball, Rudi Krol, Willie Johnston and many others played for the Vancouver Whitecaps.  It is where we beat Franz Beckenbauer’s New York Cosmos, and Johan Cruyff’s Los Angeles Aztecs on the way to the 1979 Soccer Bowl triumph.

The pitch is the latest generation of fieldturf, which is the closest to grass that I have played on.  It is still quite grippy and jarring to run on, so I think we will see a few injuries this year as a result.  I hope that they wet the field before games because when we started it was dry and the ball tended to stick to the surface.  After some rain, the ball really took off when it hit the pitch at any pace.  It was interesting to contrast with the old Astroturf that used to be in the playing field at old Empire Stadium.  That stuff was brutal. If you fell on it you would end up with awful carpet burns.  It was very hard as well.  No wonder Bob Lenarduzzi and Carl Valentine have had to have joints replaced recently!

I can report that the stadium as it looks now will be a great place to watch the game, though the bleachers behind the goal are a bit further back than a traditional football fan would like. Those who sit along the sidelines are in for a treat, because the views of the pitch will be fantastic. The stands look very close to the field and the players will be able to hear every word we shout.

Roll on March 19, 2011.  We are going to have a lot of fun at Empire Field.

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