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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

UEFA Champions League Final: Man U x Chelsea FC from Moscow

Today in the International Herald Tribune, legendary football writer, Rob Hughes, provided his preview of tonight's UCL final between Manchester United and Chelsea FC.

One item that might surprise fans was to learn of the poor quality of the playing pitch. The playing surface at Luzhniki Stadium was synthetic until last Fall. It was removed in anticipation of this game.
"The stadium had a synthetic surface up to last autumn when, with this game in mind, it was torn up to lay down grass.

Matthew Frost, the aptly named Englishman who has overseen the conversion from plastic to natural turf, has not found working with the Russians straightforward.

He says he forewarned them, and UEFA, the European soccer authority, which selected Moscow for this game, that the grass being sown in Moscow would not produce a perfect surface. Last month, they agreed. Plan B was to import turf from the same land as the referee, Slovakia. It arrived about two weeks ago.

"The transport was difficult, and it damaged some of the turf," Frost said. "There are patches that are desiccated, with dead plant material on the surface. There's no life in it, and no chemical that can bring it to life."

The English groundsman is embarrassed about his field, and deep down afraid of what might happen if a star performer trips and breaks a leg on it. UEFA says that it may it might be very, very green but that it is playable."

This reminds me of similar issues that we see in Major League Soccer. They spend millions to import star players; however, several playing surfaces are unofficial and full of gridiron stripes. Sadly, tonight (the game kicks-off at 2245 Moscow time) we will witness a great final on a poor pitch.

"Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle." Michelangelo Buonarroti.

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