Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Plastic Fantastic

In 2005 FIFA under-17 world championship in Peru was played entirely on artificial turf made by Polytran GmbH, Germany. Chances are by FIFA World Cup 2010 South Africa stadium will be carpeted with artificial turf. Experts agree the cost of natural grass is too prohibitive and dedicated turf means venues are unable to be used during the season for other events. If the purpose of the World Cup competition is to promote football then reducing costs of turf maintenance especially in climates which demand high maintenance makes economic sense. Increase in reported injuries (due to cleats), has led to players to join the lobby to play on artificial turf. Not all are of the same opinion (74 percent of Italy's professional players opposed playing matches on artificial grass, according to a recent survey by the Italian players union) but there is pressure to accept synthetic surfaces. The latest artificial grass is so like the real thing as to be impossible to tell the difference when running on it in football shoes, according to manufacturers and players. Earlier attempts to introduce synthetic turf to football fields failed in the 1980s, when nylon surfaces were installed in four English stadium. Complaints that the ball bounced too high, the surfaces damaged players' knees and skin burns resulted when tackling opponents, all contributed to abandoning the artifical grass. Modern synthetic surfaces use sand, rubber and polypropylene foam bases to give the same cushioning as natural earth. The silicone coated polyethylene tufts do not cause friction burns and provide uniform surfaces to play over. In Europe, league clubs are beginning to use artifical pitches e.g.
Moscow's Spartak, Moscow and Austria's Red Bull Salzburg. Technological advances by synthetic grass makers such as Polytran GmbH and FieldTurf, along with demands for uniform playing conditions, have led the Zurich-based Federation Internationale de Football Association FIFA to consider artificial turf for future tournaments. Good reasons to assume future development of the football boot will include better interphase between the cleat and playing surface. The hope is this development will reduce the horrendous lacerations that cleats appear to be currently causing.

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