Saturday, July 01, 2006

Perfect Pitch?

Cleats (blades) have proven ideal for gripping when players are changing direction when running or pushing off and side-stepping but the traction systems are less efficient during straight line stopping and starting. This may account for some of the slipping we have seen during competition, from what appear perfectly normal patches several players have struggled to keep their feet. The condition of the grass has always been the predictor of the kind of studs that should be worn and many clubs kept on staff old timers, known as boot men, their job was to care for the players’ boots and advise them on the type of studs to wear. Sadly less emphasis is placed on this now and due to the introduction of blades the boots are often worn inappropriately for the pitch condition. Now such the beautiful game is such a spectator sport the colour of the pitch has become very important. Some believe the preoccupation of being seen to play on lush green pitches has created problems and not just for the greenkeepers. To help stop large lumps of turf being ripped up the grass grown through a thin plastic mesh which helps to bind the playing surface together. However the presence of the mesh inhibits the movement of conventional studs and blade studs damage the pitch. Away from the camera greenkeepers work frantically behind the scenes at half time replacing the divets, displaced by the players. Incompatibility may result in a further increase in player injury and a groundswell is growing to accept artificial playing surfaces. Some of the World Cup turf comes from a farm near Heythuysen village in Holland. It is grown at a top secret location near the German border which is frequently monitored by the FIFA’s Turf Competence Team. FIFA have brought together turf specialists from all over Germany. More than 530,000 square meters of grass has been grown for the competition and the Dutch turf covers seven out of the 12 World Cup stadium. The grass is a highly resilient mixture of two types: Kenbtucky Bluegrass (poa pratensis) provides texture and texture) and fast growing rye grass (lolium perenne). This blend maintains a high quality and color of grass which will look good for the television as well as for spectators in the stadium. The combination guarantees the ball moves 'very quickly' over its surface and will influence how the ball bounces. The Dutch grass is already used in the Real Madrid stadium. Workers laid the new grass before the start of the 2006 World Cup at a cost of more than $1.9 million (US) and whilst the “experts” described the pitches as exquisite individual players and teams have complained the grass is too rough for accurate passing, and dry patches had already appeared at most of the 12 stadiums. World Cup officials blame the cold, wet weather in April and May, when the grass was growing at nurseries. Changes in temperature after it has been laid meant the turf failed to anchor properly into the moist earth beneath. So in many stadium it is far from a perfect playing surface.

No comments: