Wheeler and Co. taking the (BMO) field

GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:12 PM ET

Tuesday is a big night at BMO Field as I, Gareth Wheeler, make my season debut on the home field of Toronto FC.

There’s no denying my credentials as a dominant centre back (insert wink here). And I have pestered Director of Soccer Mo Johnston over the years to give me a look.

My appearance Tuesday is no trial. At the ripe old age of 29, my glory days are behind me.

Tuesday’s game isn’t even a high-level match of any significance. My 6-on-6 co-ed summer league team (insert laugh track here) is playing at BMO Field, in what will be an hour and a half of dominance.

I’m not kidding. Intramural, semi-competitive soccer played at the home of your beloved TFC.

No disrespect to my team. Our replica green Wolfsburg kit is pretty sharp. But we have no business playing there. We don’t even use referees for crying out loud.

And it’s not just one 6-on-6 game. It’s three games played simultaneously lined up across the field. That’s 36 players, all at once tromping, sliding, and carving up the beautiful new green grass that’s been in place all of a couple months.

Just keep your fingers crossed for dry weather. Intramural soccer plus rain or wet conditions is a lethal combination. The lush green can turn to a miserable brown very quickly.

It’s sheer madness allowing a bunch of amateurs play in our National Soccer Stadium. This week, Wheeler and Co. taking the field, next week, Portuguese Liga Champions Benfica and Greece Super League Champions Panathinaikos. Cool for us, not so much for them.

There is no way public-use of the facility ever was, or still is a good idea. Keeping the new grass as healthy as possible should be the priority. TFC only trains there one day a week before home games, instead practising out of the city, often times on turf. And for what? So the citizens of Toronto can carve up BMO Field?

It’s an absolute disgrace. The current arrangement is bush league and has to change.

Most stadia around the world don’t let anyone step on it fields aside from players on game day.

This is what happens when ownership makes a deal with the devil, in this case City Hall. Keeping taxpayers happy is one thing, but Joe Blow public could care less whether the Toronto sport and social club has access to BMO Field or not.

If high-level games, like the final of the Robbie Tournament is played at BMO Field, then so be it. It’s understandable and has caché. But glorified beer leagues and social set-ups have no place.

Part-timers contributed to the wear and tear of the FieldTurf when it was still there. Expecting the grass to survive is a pipe dream. The surface already looks worn down inside the six-yard box, particularly at the south end. Like any quality field, the grass needs to be cultivated and it takes time.

What kind of condition will the field will be in at season’s end is anyone’s guess. What shape will it be in come MLS Cup time in November is even more daunting.

All signs point to choppy, muddy and inconsistent.

Come rain, sleet or snow, MLS and TFC officials have boasted how fans will show up no matter the weather for the MLS Cup. But there has been no mention how the weather and field conditions may affect the players. Players can deal with cold, but a bad field could ruin the proceedings, being a severe detriment to the quality of play.

TFC knows the current stadium situation isn’t ideal and is looking for partnership to build state of the art team training and academy facilities, including more fields for community use. A project as such would cost at least 10 million dollars.

Until then, I’ll be leaving my six-studs at home for games at BMO Field.

gareth.wheeler@suntv.canoe.ca


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