In the midst of question marks on the City stadium surface, Kenya welcomes a second artificial pitch at the Moi stadium in Kisumu. The artificial pitch, 3rd Generation, consists of grass-like
polythene fibers and a rubber-pellets filling. The fibers on these 3rd Generation turfs are low abrasion fibers, in the attempt to resemble natural grass as much as
possible, whereas the rubber fillings provide padding to ease stress on the players’ bodies. The core arguments for these pitches are their cost and convenience advantages over natural grass They need less maintenance and have all-weather usability.
Even so, you must be wondering, why talk about this on a blog dedicated to tactics? Well, because they have an effect on player condition; which translates to affecting the game-play itself.
There has been muted uproar, in some sections of Kenya’s football
community, over the adverse effects the pitch has been having on players at City stadium; more specifically, on Gor Mahia players. The team has been dealing with continuous player injuries that have a common theme of being
non-contact injuries. Since the team doesn’t play in an aggressive style or have intense training sessions, the pitch has to
be the only culprit responsible for the situation. That is where the
confusion comes in; FIFA’s Medical Assessment and Research Centre of the Incidence and Severity of injuries approves the 3rd Generation pitches and actually has a specified pitch provider. Moreover, artificial pitches are common in the American (USA) version of football. They are also used extensively in the Nigerian and Algerian football leagues; even the most successful Sub-Saharan Africa club, TP Mazembe, have an artificial turf laid on their home stadium. So
what’s going on?
In the entire hullabaloo about Kenya having billiard table pitches, albeit plastic, it has been forgotten that these surfaces do need maintenance. Someone translated “less maintenance” to “no maintenance”; why am I not
surprised? To digress and put it out of the way, both the FKF and Gor Mahia bare blame. While it is true that the artificial turfs do away with natural grass’ hustles of fertilizing, regular watering, etc. they have their own requirements to maintain playability. Otherwise, they become unsuitable for use.
According to, virtually, all firms involved in this business; 3rd
Generation artificial turfs, such as those installed in Kenya, have a
lifespan of 8 years. They also advice a set of requirements to prevent premature degradation-something that City stadiums’ pitch has, evidently, succumbed to. The most straightforward ask being, reasonable use of the
pitch. This means avoiding overuse of the pitch and giving it adequate rest time. What of the Kenyan Premier League holding “double-headers” in addition to the weekly training sessions that are held at City stadium on booking basis?
When the pitch is overused, it’s subjected to wear and tear; this is where the injuries come into play. This is where the issues of 1st Generation artificial turfs haunt 3rd Generation ones- a colossus embarrassment if you ask me They include: unnatural, injury-
causing, stress on the player joints and ligaments as a result of heavy boot- surface friction; unpredictability of the surface with regards to the ball’s roll and bounce; frequent turf burns, that are also a result of increased friction, leave players at risk of MRSA bacteria (Methicillin-resistant Straphylococcus aureus) and the harmful chemicals in shredded rubber on the developed lesion. Poorly maintained artificial turfs also create the threat of heat stress, blisters and dehydration on the players.
Enough of the horror-talk, how does FKF ensure Kisumu’s Moi Stadium surface doesn’t go the City Stadium way? (Yes, internalize it, City Stadium’s only
convenient redemption is a new pitch). Starting with the basics again, the pitch should be watered during matches held in hot days to prevent the aforementioned heat effects on players.
The pitch should be on the end of an annual filling of the rubber pellets as the game’s intensity wears it down, thus destroying the padding effect and adding pressure on player ligaments/
joints. It should also be regularly
cleaned (with water, don’t get too lost haha!) and have any stains removed promptly with suitable cleaning agents. More importantly, the stress areas, penalty box and pitch centre should see regular rubber filling- they can refer to how natural grass pitches wears out in these areas to provide
guidance. Finally, for the sake of TV/photo presentation, the Kisumu pitch should be brushed regularly to maintain the mesmerizing green appearance it
If a low maintenance pitch cannot be retained at its optimal state, we
might as well pack our bags and leave (to Barclays Premier League, of course).