Fulham's Groundsman called to Ghana
By Dave Saltman
Fulham Football Club's Head of Corporate Grounds, Frank Boahene, has been asked by the Ministry of Youth, Education and Sports in Ghana to visit and advise the Ministry on how to maintain and keep all of its football pitches.
Fulham's Chairman, Mohamed Al Fayed received an official request for Frank to be allowed to take the trip back to his native country between the 6th and 13th of July to offer his expertise in pitch maintenance.
Frank said, "There are two main stadiums in Ghana one is at Kumasi and the other in Accra. No doubt I will look at these stadiums first, then perhaps at some of the others as well as the training facilities currently available.
The Ghanaian FA are planning to look at their facilities in more detail and the idea here is to try and get the two hand in hand -i.e. the training grounds and the main grounds to be similar, condition wise. Their clear aim at this stage is to have pitches worthy of playing world cup qualifiers on and equally high standard training facilities.
I have only ever watched the pitches in Ghana from a supporter's point of view - sitting in the stand and looking at the pitch makes it difficult to judge so this will be a great opportunity to see the surfaces close up and offer an assessment.
It's one thing preparing a Premier division pitch but there will be no comparison in Ghana. The pitches I saw out there were dry and in Ghana the weather jumps from one extreme to another. At the moment the rainy season will just be starting making it difficult to use any machinery.
The FA are preparing for the next world cup in 2006. I am really going to look at the short-term requirements as well as looking ahead to the longer-term needs.
In terms of immediate practices, I will look at the fertilizing and watering regimes and the amount of hours work currently allocated to be spent on the pitches.
I have to find out what sort of irrigation procedures they have in place, and at what standard. When you are dealing with a place like Africa, during the dry periods the people are struggling to find water for themselves, let alone find water for a pitch.
The temperature in Ghana in the dry season varies between 30-40 degrees. You have the coast near the capital so it doesn't get quite as hot as inland. You have to take these things into consideration when planning for different pitches in different locations. I will probably have to employ different methods for the inland and the coastal pitches, as well as using warm season grasses, instead of the cool season grasses that I've been used to.
It will be a challenge and I will have to draw on local knowledge. I will put together all my fact-finding and provide a report. I will listen to what they are looking for. If they are looking to turn the pitch around without taking the surface off you are looking at anything between two to five years. But they don't have that long - the pitches need an immediate impact.
If we are not allowed to use water then we have to start looking at other products available to us, for example wetting agents that will help to keep the moisture in the soil. I need to look at the fertilizers available although I may consider the use of seaweed-based fertilisers, which don't need water to break down. There are temperature release pellets we could also use.
The Government in Ghana have acknowledged that sport is important, and Ghana is a very big footballing nation. Most of the players are European based but many have been taking an interest in returning to play in Ghana, so it is up to us to try and provide similar surfaces to what they have been used to.
My main role will be to advise on grass. This is a true reflection on the work that I have done at Fulham F.C. as Head Groundsman for the past six years. I don't think the accolade is down to one individual; it has been a team effort. No matter how good I think I am, I am only as strong as my team.
It is going to be a challenging experience, but the plus for me is that I am from Africa and I understand the conditions over there and the standards that they are looking for. It will also be a bonus that I can speak the local language with the grounds staff.
This will be a two-way learning curve and I hope to bring something back from the trip, I'm proud to be going. I have an open mind with no preconceptions - I will see it for what it is and go from there."