Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What is UEFA playing at?

No Bon Jovi concert here to take the blame

Now time for our second turf story of the day.

As if we needed any more ready-made excuses or realizations that tomorrow's Champions League final will be rather, ahem, boring underwhelming, UEFA is currently playing defense against concerns that the pitch is absolute shit, and that it will not be adequately fixed in time for the centerpiece of the club football season.

How did Moscow get the bid again? (Here's looking at you, Roman)

At present, officials and grounds staff at the Luzhniki Stadium are working to upgrade and improve certain areas of the pitch after replacing the entire surface just 15 days ago, and groundsman Matt Frost has talked the talk, but not really walked the walk so far.

Frost had claimed last week that he would provide a "Rolls-Royce of a pitch" for the final, but now he has clear reservations.

"I'm totally disappointed with the whole project and what we are presenting for the final," he said.

Yeah, you and the 80,000+ who will attend the game, the 22 people playing, the 2 people managing, and the millions of people worldwide who will be watching.

While there is little doubt in the minds of UEFA officials that the original turf at the stadium was absolute pants and needed to be replaced, can you imagine a bigger gaffe happening in the US? This is the big European final, the showpiece, the advertisement of top-class football to a world audience, and UEFA allowed them to start switching turf just two weeks before kick-off?

Of course, they are confident:

"We are slightly worried about the look of it," Uefa spokesman William Gaillard told Radio 5 Live.

"In terms of the quality, we have made some tests in the last few days and it is perfectly fine. It may not look very, very green on television, but, essentially, it is a good pitch to play football on. At this stage, we are confident it will be fine."

Sounds like a vote of confidence, yes?

If nothing else, it will give Ronaldo and Drogba a lot more creative freedom in their diving habits thanks to the abundance of new divots to get stuck in.

The Telegraph explains a little bit more about the turf details, but there's little one can do to deflect the ineptitude of the planning and execution process. If we get treated to a crap game tomorrow night, it's just one more thing players and managers can blame. Just watch: the winning goal will be an extra-time tap-in following a weird bounce off the pitch. Doesn't shit like this just sum up why people still take the piss out of football?

ΓΌ75 Update: UEFA president Michel Platini has spoken on the controversy. His take? Let the players decide if it is playable, intimating that the players could call off the final if necessary. Well, that's what FoxSoccer's headline would have you believe at least. In reality, he called for armchair pundits to let the players actually use the pitch for training first before we declare how bad it really is. I saw some video earlier, and I'll say this--it looks a lot like DC United's pitch when groundsharing with the Nationals. You can see the seams all over the place. Whether or not that affects the play will remain to be seen.


Precious Roy said...

Hey, what do you expect when you hire Steve Bruce's non-union ex-Soviet equivalent?

Mike Georger said...

steve bruce es bueno

i was under the assumption that this was a field turf stadium and they were just putting in grass for this event, or was i wrong?

Goat said...

It's also rather troubling that they've apparently taken stadium design inspiration from the 1970s Houston Astros.