Fake grass blights Pacific Northwest soccer

December 28, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Posted in General Football, Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps Season 2012, Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium | 2 Comments

The Pacific North west has always been a bit of a soccer hotbed. Back in the NASL days Portland, Seattle and Vancouver were three of the strongest franchises. Even when the NASL disappeared, PacNorthWest football culture stayed strong, just below the boiling point. The addition of Seattle to Major League Soccer showed the love of football is strong in the region, and now the PacNorthWest is at a boiling point, with two other MLS franchises prospering in Portland and Vancouver.

With attendances soaring in Seattle and Portland, and Vancouver not so far behind, who would find anything to complain about? Unfortunately there is one major thing which is holding back PacNorthWest soccer: it is fake grass, otherwise known as FieldTurf. All three Pacific Northwest MLS franchises are currently playing on the stuff.

The problem with FieldTurf in Portland and Seattle has been recently highlighted by the fact the US National team would dearly love to play in front of such magnificent support in Seattle and Portland, but do not want to play on it. Instead, they want to lay a temporary grass surface over the FieldTurf. One commentator, Richard Farley of NBC Sports ProSoccerTalk, has said they should just play on the FieldTurf surfaces. He says “there is nothing wrong with Portland or Seattle’s fields.”

How wrong Farley is. Anyone who knows the game of football knows that FieldTurf is really no substitute for natural grass where professional football is concerned. I have never heard any top player express the wish to play on FieldTurf over grass; rather, they universally express contempt for FieldTurf.

There are a number of reasons why the World’s top clubs travelling through North America insist on playing on grass, and won’t play on FieldTurf. Such clubs include Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Celtic and others who refuse to play on the stuff. Why? Because it is not worthy of play at the top levels of the game. They feel it threatens their player’s careers and exposes them to muscle and ligament damage. Anybody who has played a game on FieldTurf knows the toll it takes on the body. While there is no doubt FieldTurf is better than the Astroturf of old, the world’s best teams are right about all of these concerns.

There is a reason why we missed seeing David Beckham in 2011 and Thierry Henry in 2011 and 2012 in Vancouver: both players were nursing minor injuries and did not want to aggravate them by playing on FieldTurf. If we had a proper grass pitch, we might well have seen them.

As a spectator of football, FieldTurf fundamentally changes the game and diminishes it as a spectacle. There is simply no substitute for grass when football is played at the professional level. FieldTurf is fine for amateurs, or in countries where weather conditions mean there is no alternative, but the skill of footballers at the top level is only to be appreciated on grass. Watching the best footballers on FieldTurf is like watching Formula 1 genius Michael Schumacher driving a stock car on a formula 1 track. We know the driver is brilliant, but we are never going to see that brilliance in a stock car on a formula 1 track.

While I love football so much I would watch it played on virtually anything, as a fan of football there is a huge difference in how the game is played on grass as opposed to FieldTurf. It is simply a game better played on grass.

With the fan support Pacific Northwest teams enjoy in MLS, and with the fantastic growing conditions we have, there is no excuse for having professional soccer on fake grass. Surely the goal of all three PacNorthwest MLS clubs must be to play on natural grass pitches. If not, the region will be stunted in its football growth and will never attain anything near the greatness of the world’s top clubs.

It is time for FieldTurf apologists to stop trying to sell us a bill of goods. It is time for commentators like Farley to wake up and see the truth. Stop trying to tell us this nonsense that FieldTurf is just as good as grass, or even nearly as good as grass. I really don’t care if FIFA has approved it for qualifying matches either. It is simply not as good as grass for the professional game, nowhere near, and we fans of the Pacific Northwest deserve better.

Give PacNorthWest football fans what we deserve: proper grass pitches. Then we might watch the standard of football we deserve.

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2 Comments »

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  1. […] around I also found an interesting and, I think, apposite post from a Whitecaps blog about the evils of fake grass in the North American game . The only people who like this crap are the bean counters, for whom it represents a savings in […]

  2. I agree with you. Grass is far better, not only to play on but also for developing ball skills. Most kids now play on Field Turf during their formative soccer careers and it is galling to see them trying to control the ball on the stuff. A good first touch is so important and each weekend I see teenage boys struggle to master this important aspect of the game. Follow the bouncing ball! Of course grass fields require good construction and TLC and this is expensive. It all comes down to how important it is for us to become a good soccer nation and how much we are prepared to spend to achieve that state of grace.
    Dunc


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