Brazil 2014 - leaving a legacy

Dave Saltmanin Editorial

In May, I was a speaker at the Football Groundsman Conference at the Petrovsky Stadium in Russia, home of Zenit St Petersburg, and one of my co-speakers was Roberto Gomide, CEO of the company responsible for the construction and maintenance of over half the pitches used in Brazil for this summer's World Cup.

Speaking to Roberto before and after the conference, it was so interesting to note how difficult it had been for his company to get the pitches constructed/renovated and ready for play in time.

In the UK, we are so well serviced, and information is so easily accessible, that we take for granted most of our daily and seasonal routines, perhaps thinking that it should be equally easy for our counterparts abroad.

When Brazil won the race to host the tournament, pitch construction and maintenance was fairly basic at all of the venues. Fortunately, following the issues that surrounded the poor quality of pitches in South Africa 2010, guidelines had been put in place by FIFA and most of the pitches and new builds in Brazil followed these to present pitches to a much higher standard.

Despite the new specifications and guidelines, the task to provide these new pitches was immense. The country is the fifth largest in the world, occupying nearly 3.3 million square miles (8.5 million km2), and enjoys both a temperate and tropical climate. The logistics involved to work between the stadiums proved demanding in a country that the UK would fit comfortably within thirty-five times!

In the temperate south, the stadium at Porto Alegre where Australia played Holland, is a daunting 2,000 miles away from Manaus, England's opening venue, and involves a four and a half hour flight. To put that in perspective, it's the same as flying from Birmingham to the Canaries!
Due to the topography of the landscape, overland journeys are considerably worse and that particular road trip would take up to a month to complete, notwithstanding the grief of dealing with the varying levels of bureaucracy travelling across each of the Brazilian states.

I was assured by Roberto that his pitches would be good for the World Cup and it's encouraging also that these new constructions have been built with the future in mind. The pitches have had a budget to include the latest technology during construction, plus the subsequent aftercare.

Most of the pitches have been built with fibre reinforcement, bespoke cool air and sub air systems, efficient drainage, lights, pitch coverings and the maintenance machinery, so there should be a top quality legacy for the local communities after the FIFA 2014 World Cup leaves town.

Dave Saltman

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