Stalteri tears into BMO pitch

DEAN McNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:50 AM ET

Canadian soccer team star Paul Stalteri levelled a blistering attack on BMO Field yesterday on the eve of a friendly against Costa Rica, charging that injuries are inevitable when games are played on a pitch with artificial turf.

Stalteri, a defender who is playing for Tottenham Hotspur in the English premiership, said he had hoped that when the Canadian Soccer Association and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., announced plans to build the 20,000-seat stadium they would have had the foresight to put in a natural grass surface.

The 30-year-old native of Brampton said that when Canadian players are called on to play for their country in the lead-up to the next World Cup, they shouldn't have to be worried about suffering an injury because the national soccer stadium uses field turf.

"The (BMO) pitch is the biggest issue with the players," Stalteri said. "Not being used to playing on (field turf) is a problem. In my opinion if the pitch was returned to grass, it would be the best in Canada."

Stalteri, who leads the national squad with 58 senior caps, said Canadians deserved to have the best facility that money can buy to make the game grow in the country's largest city.

"This is the city where football needs to be played in Canada," he said, adding that he isn't alone in his thinking. "It's an issue for everyone on this squad not just me."

Stalteri blamed pressure from promoters, such as MLSEL, for ignoring what the game needs in favour of what will make the most money.

"The game has been played for over 100 years on a natural surface," he said. "A country like this with a stadium we have in Toronto, which is a professional city, with a professional team, (soccer) here should be played on a natural surface."

Stalteri said that it isn't just the look of the pitch, but the way the game is played on it that should matter and that field turf changes the nature of the game.

"The ball doesn't have a true roll at all," he said. "People think (turf) is a flat surface, when there's nothing further from the truth. It lacks any trueness of the game."

"Just running on it on an everyday basis, just cutting and turning when you are sprinting, it's just a completely different feel than any natural surface. If you look at the (injury) record of TFC right now, I've got no doubt in my mind that it has something to do with the pitch."


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