The World Cup final pitch at the Lusail Stadium in Qatar had to be relaid prior to the match.
Groundspeople put artificial turf down in one of the two six-yard areas — directly in front of the goal — to cover up for a damaged area of grass.
Around six metres of turf was placed down in that area. The Athletic has taken a look at why the pitch has developed into a concern.
What are the pitches made of in Qatar?
Well, grass of course, but it’s quite difficult to grow grass in the desert. That’s why a special kind of seed, grown in South Georgia in the United States, has been flown in via climate-controlled aircraft.
Grass varieties such as seashore paspalum, bermudagrass, and zoysia were tested by Aspire Sports Turf of Qatar and international sports turf consulting STRI at different sites. They plumped for Platinum TE Paspalum for all stadiums and training grounds.
“It exhibited stronger tensile strength, greater ability to grow in low light conditions, and rapid recovery from injury,” said Atlas Turf President John Holmes.
The climate in Qatar increased the risk of deteriorating pitch conditions so the right grass seed was essential. The robustness of this seed, however, has not proved strong enough.
How have pitches been treated during the tournament?
The pitches are watered by sprinklers regularly as the grass needs 10,000 litres of water every day in the winter, just a fifth of the summer requirement.
At least 20 groundsmen, part of FIFA’s “recovery teams”, have also been seen patting down clumps of earth with pitchforks at half-time in an attempt to improve the playing surface. Each stadium has a designated grounds team employed by FIFA.
A huge turf farm north of Doha has also been grown should surfaces have to be relaid.
How does the air-conditioning impact the pitch?
One of the strengths of this grass seed was its quick ability to grow from stolons, a stem that grows along the ground surface.
But some grass seeds become dormant in lower temperatures which decreases the rate of regrowth between games.
What are the effects on players and what has been said about it all?
There have been many incidents of players slipping on the surface, although none have yet caused an injury or match-defining moment.
Players and coaches have also largely kept their thoughts on pitches to themselves, but before Brazil’s game against Switzerland, goalkeeper coach Claudio Taffarel said the surface at Stadium 974 caught his attention because “it was not perfect… making it difficult to control the ball.”
(Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)