After two years of artificial grass, Rizal Memorial is going back to the real thing.
This was revealed today by Azkals boss Dan Palami, who announced that work to remove the Italian artificial grass carpet and replace it with real grass, will begin soon.
“The turf has been great, but this is our national stadium and we have decided that it should be grass. There’s still nothing like playing football on grass.”
More and more leagues around the world are shifting to synthetic playing surfaces. Currently the top tiers in Scotland, North America, France, the Netherlands, and Singapore all allow plastic pitches, which need far less maintenance than grass.
However the English Premier League and German Bundesliga still insist on real grass for all of their matches.
“It still feels better, and the bounce is more natural,” says the Azkals boss. Balls that land on turf with some spin on it “grab” more than real grass, but on rainy days balls skid more.
Recently the world’s best female players raised a howl when the FIFA Women’s World Cup was played on turf in Canada last year. Many of the players decried this as a form of discrimination since the entire final stage of the men’s World Cup a year earlier was played on grass.
The Azkals’ other home field, Panaad Park and Stadium, is natural grass, as is the Abellana field in Cebu that has also hosted the team’s friendlies. The University of Makati pitch is also real grass. The Azkals also often train in the Moro Lorenzo Football Field in Ateneo which is also natural grass.
“I’m sure Pinoy football fans will appreciate the games on grass more,” said Palami. He says the new natural grass surface will be done in time for the second round of UFL matches in July. The league plans triple headers on Saturday and Sunday starting then.
The new pitch will have the same dimensions as the current field, 68 meters by 105 meters. Construction of the new pitch was awarded to Lilang’s Gardens and Landscaping from Malolos, Bulacan, which has vast experience as a contractor for fields and golf courses. The grass used will not be the Bermuda used previously but a different breed, paspalum conjugatum berguis, which is a newly-developed strain of grass that is hardier and uses less water.
There will be an additional wrinkle with the new field. To maximize profits, the new field will actually be a multi-purpose facility. Since the adjacent Rizal Memorial Baseball field is set for renovation, the football pitch will also host Baseball and softball temporarily.
A sand diamond will be in place in the North end of the pitch. This will be covered in sod for football games. There will also be a removable pitcher’s mound that will likely be near the “D” near the North goal. The fences may also be adjusted to accommodate the minimum 320 feet from home plate to the end of the foul line.
Palami is confident that the new set-up will work smoothly.
“The field will be fine. The worst thing that can happen is that parts of the field might be bare or a bit bumpy but the professional players should be able to cope.”
The new pitch should also help Filipino football fans learn a different game.
“Football fans appreciate all kinds if sports so why not Baseball?” Palami says. He also adds that he will get one of the Global players to throw the ceremonial first pitch of the Manila Baseball League when it is held there.
No doubt the return to a more traditional surface for the game will be a good move. Palami’s final words say it all.
“We are all excited and happy to see grass return to the home of Filipino football. And thrilled that you made it this far believing this absolute nonsense of an article. Happy April Fools Day!”