Portsmouth, Colo-Colo coming

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:29 PM ET

EDMONTON - Manchester City. Turfed.

Glasgow Celtic. Turfed.

The new FieldTurf at Commonwealth Stadium may be the one world governing body FIFA-approved, but if a horse can't eat it some of the top teams in the soccer world still don't want to play on it, says Mel Kowalchuk.

“We lost Celtic and Man City because of the turf,” he said.

“We lost Celtic the day after they announced they were putting artificial turf into Commonwealth Stadium.

“They had already agreed to a game in Seattle on FieldTurf and said they were only willing to play one game on it. Man City sounded excited to come to Edmonton until they found out it wasn't grass any longer. They said to try them again next year.

“There's still a lot of people in this sport, especially with the top teams, who are very much old school, no matter what FIFA approves.”

Tuesday, Kowalcuk and new FC Edmonton professional soccer team owner Tom Fath introduced two international games at Commonwealth Stadium this summer — one against F.A. Cup-finalist Portsmouth and the other against Colo-Colo of Chile. A third international against Vitoria of Brazil was also announced for Foote Field.

But it could have been Scotland's famed Celtic team of the legendary Rangers-Celtic rivalry and/or Man City, the team which finished fifth behind Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham in England's Premier League this season.

It's ironic, with that in mind, that the same FieldTurf might turn out to be as big an attraction as the two teams when it comes to selling tickets, however.

“I never thought of that,” said Kowalchuk.

While the Eskimos get the first go on it June 13 against the Calgary Stampeders, FC Edmonton will play Colo-Colo June 20. One of the features of the state of the art FieldTurf is that yard stripes for football are removable for soccer lines.

Last year, the cost of producing the first Edmonton Cup friendly between English Premier League fifth-place-finishing Everton and Argentina's River Plate was $1.2 million. With insane $105 ticket prices, the game drew an announced crowd of only 15,800 and lost over half a million.

The combined cost of bringing in Colo-Colo, Vitoria and Portsmouth is close to the same $1.2 million figure combined and they get three games out of it.

And apparently organizers learned from their ticket pricing disaster last season.

Tickets aren't on sale yet. The Colo-Colo deal was finalized on the weekend and signed at the press conference Tuesday. But Kowalchuk says there will be a package where fans will be able to get the same seat for both Commonwealth Stadium games and a Foote Field game (Vitoria or one of the previously announced games against teams such as the Montreal Impact and F.C. Miami) for significantly less than the $105 they spent to sit in the seat for the one game last year. He also guaranteed the lowest price for a single game ticket would be less than half of the $53 charged for the game last year.

The Colo-Colo game could draw very well considering the number of Chileans in Edmonton who helped create a crowd of 19,000 for a game between Canada and Chile in the ’90s. Coco-Colo is huge in the Chilean community. And the team will train at the Millennium Place facility in Sherwood Park for a full week and spent considerable time in the community during their stay.

A big bonus is that the contract with the club guarantees the entire starting line-up of the team will play at least the first 60 minutes of the game.

Colo-Colo has won a record 29 Primera Division titles and is the only Chilean club to have played in the Premera Division every season. They've never been relegated.

Portsmouth, as was the case with Everton the year before, lost the F.A Cup final. Unlike Everton, however, Portsmouth finished last in the league and have been relegated.

The team which was not only F.A. Cup runners-up this year but F.A. Cup champions in 2008, will play for the Edmonton Cup July 21.

Being that they're in a big time rebuilding mode, Portsmouth's three game trip to North America to play D.C. United in Washington, Club America in Mexico City's massive Azteca Stadium and FC Edmonton in Commonwealth, does not come with contract conditions when it comes to starting players and playing time.

Vitoria, not a big name club team in the soccer world, plays Foote Field June 20. They do, however, have players FC Edmonton is interested in signing for next year.

“The best part is that now these games involve our own team,” said Fath.

“The biggest goal is to get fans excited for our team for next year.”

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca

FACT BOX

FC EDMONTON SCHEDULE

June 16 vs Montreal (NASL) 7:35 p.m. Foote Field.

June 20 vs Colo-Colo (Chile) 2:05 p.m. Commonwealth Stadium

June 27 vs Vitoria (Brazil) 2:05 p.m. Foote Field.

July 6 vs Ottawa (USL) 7:35, Foote Field.

July 21 vs Portsmouth (England) 2:05 p.m. Commonwealth Stadium.

Aug. 11 vs Victoria (PDL) 7:35 p.m. Foote Field.

Aug. 15 vs Spokane (PDL) 7:35 p.m Foote Field.

Aug. 28 vs Miami FC (NASL) 7:35 Foote Field.


Photos