Winnipeg Fury Posted July 20, 2004 Share Posted July 20, 2004 Canadian men's soccer team to play World Cup qualifier on artificial turf By NEIL DAVIDSON TORONTO (CP) - Canada will have to handle more than just heat and hostile fans when it travels to Costa Rica in September for a World Cup qualifying soccer game. The Canadian men will have to adjust to playing on an artificial surface. World soccer's playing field has been radically altered by an amendment to the "laws of the game" that officially permits matches to be played on artificial surfaces providing they meet certain standards. The amendment reads: "As of Thursday, 1 July 2004, matches may be played on natural or artificial surfaces if permitted by the applicable competition regulations." In other words if the artificial surface is FIFA-approved, it's "completely equivalent to natural grass," said Kevan Pipe, chief operating officer of the Canadian Soccer Association. The amendment has allowed the Costa Ricans to schedule their Sept. 8 game against Canada on the artificial grass of Ricardo Saprisse Stadium in San Jose. That game "is certainly going to change the situation for future events in World Cup qualifying for the entire confederation," Pipe predicted. The Costa Ricans had tried to schedule a June 20 World Cup qualifying game against Cuba at the same stadium, but was turned down by FIFA. Until the amendment, artificial surfaces essentially could only be used under special circumstances. A case had to be made why the game could only be played on artificial grass and then FIFA had to decide whether to allow it. "All of that has now been taken out of the equation," said Pipe, "as long as the surface has a FIFA-recommended certificate attached to it, then bingo it's there. It's now treated as the equivalent. You don't have to ask for permission." FIFA's website lists 73 approved artificial surfaces including 12 in CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean. And it is encouraging more. "Playing on artificial surfaces, that is the future of football," FIFA president Sepp Blatter said recently in Singapore. Artificial surfaces have come a long way since the days of rock-like carpet. Today's brands look and feel like grass, although the natural stuff still dominates the sport. In Canada, Ottawa's Frank Clair Stadium and Montreal's Molson Stadium both feature FieldTurf surfaces that are approved by FIFA. The CSA, however, has yet to take advantage of the amendment for men's matches. In the semifinal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, Canada's home matches are scheduled for Burnaby, B.C. (Swangard Stadium), Edmonton (Commonwealth Stadium) and one other site yet to be announced. The CSA has until Aug. 13 to decide on the site for the third home game (Oct. 13 against Costa Rica). Pipe says it's unlikely that game will be held on an artificial surface because of a scheduling conflict with the Ottawa stadium that week and the conversion costs at Molson Stadium. The new amendment refers to "applicable competition regulations," a loophole that seemingly allows confederations to insist on natural turf. But Pipe said there are no such CONCACAF regulations. The change is also good news for Canada's bid to host the 2007 world under-20 soccer championships. Winning that bid - FIFA will announce the host country in late October - is key to securing government funding for a new venue on the site of Varsity Stadium in Toronto. "We've been told unequivocally, natural grass or artificial grass is not an issue," Pipe said of the tournament bid. "If you wanted the entire championships on one surface or the other surface or a mixture of both, that's fine." Ten matches, including the final, of the world under-17 championships in 2003 held in Finland took place on artificial surfaces. While there has been no official word on the surface at the planned new Toronto stadium, Pipe says "there's no question, that in the end, it will in fact be artificial grass, no question. "The economics of a brand-new sporting facility in this country dictate that it really must be." That's because of the climate and crowded stadium schedules. However, Pipe says there is the option of going with a natural grass surface through the conclusion of the world under-20 tournament "to ensure we have some natural grass in the event." Despite the recent proliferation of new, improved artificial surfaces, there is still a learning curve. Montreal's Molson Stadium has a FieldTurf surface that features CFL line measurements and it has proved costly painting them over to convert the field for soccer. The Canadian women's team has already played on the artificial surfaces in Montreal and Ottawa. Men's coach Frank Yallop acknowledges "it's a different game on turf" but adds: "Whatever surface we're put on, we don't mind. We've just got to make sure that we try and get the right result." But while Yallop speaks diplomatically about artificial surfaces, his face tells a very different story. Pipe says the players will see for themselves what it's like on Sept. 8. "Everybody in a perfect world would love to be playing on a perfect natural grass surface. There's no ifs, ands or buts about it. But the reality in this country . . . is eventually most if not almost all stadiums will probably be looking at artificial grass in the long term." Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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