Synthetic Football Pitches – A Critique

You’d have thought there there was something built into the rules of football that a match has to be played on grass wouldn’t you? Well, clearly not as Russia want to play their game against England in the European Championship Qualifiers on a synthetic pitch.

In the 1980’s there were a few teams who had plastic pitches; Oldham and Luton amongst them if I remember, and they were bloody awful. The ball used to bounce to a height greater than the one it came down from (well, not quite but you get my drift). Any slide tackles were for the bravest of the brave as they left your leg looking like a side of corned beef. Very unpleasant. I know about these pitches first hand what with being a goalkeeper for my school who had one. I never really enjoyed playing on it and it got worse when you ended up with loads of sand in your bag and holes in your kit from the friction.

Synthetic pitches have improved over the years to a point where they are awarded “FIFA 2 Star accreditation”, whatever that means. 2 doesn’t sound that good to me but I know nothing about it! Manufacturers of them say that “players take to them instinctively”. However, I’ve been listening to the radio today and a Scottish Player, Gary O’Connor who’s was playing for Lokomotiv Moscow for a while, and played on the said pitch, said it was horrible. He said that it was bumpy & they soaked it with water 15 minutes before kick off. This was to slicken it up so the ball doesn’t get held up with the increased friction, so any slide tacklers/goalkeepers don’t just hit it with their skin stopping on the surface while the rest of their body moves on in a natural way (nice, eh?!).

For training, they are fine as there’s nothing at stake, but they are not fine for major international competitive matches in my opinion. A rule should be written in saying that any competitive football must be played on grass.

Still, it gives Steve McLaren an excuse if he needs one doesn’t it?!



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