Tuesday, June 15, 2010

South Africa World Cup Turf Not A Level Playing Field

It's winter. There will be high traffic. Short-lived. It's not green enough. It's South African's native grass kikuyu. Not green enough? What is it with people having expectations of turf "green-ness?"

Well, when it's South Africa's World Cup games and literally, millions of people around the world are watching, the grass may not be green enough. Which is not settling well with black South Africans. They are proud of their native grass and reject the notion that it's not good enough for Europe.

Kikuyu is a fast-growing grass that spreads through rhizomes and stolons that was first introduced to the United States in 1915 . It tolerates sun, shade, and warm temperatures. But don't look for it here in the United States. It has the temperment of bermudagrass and is considered a federal noxious weed. The FIFA's solution is a combination of ryegrass and for the first time in World Cup history, artificial turf.

Millions of Africans have been saying it for years: the grass is greener in Europe. Now the world's football bosses have decided that Africa's indigenous grass is not bright enough for international television audiences.

In a major blow to South African pride in hosting next year's World Cup, stadiums used for top matches have been told to scrap their hardy African kikuyu pitches and switch instead to tender European ryegrass.
With warm season grasses, it's going to need more maintenance, more water, more fertilizer on the football (Soccer to us Yanks) stadium field than the kikuyu. Over-seeding with rye isn't catching on with South Africans who are frankly insulted that their field isn't up to European and HD television standards.

Let's hope FIFA gets the aesthetic look they want to achieve. Cape Town has wet winters this time of the year and the ryegrass hopefully will not turn yellow.

Tournament spokesman Rich Mkondo, agrees with the Sports Turf Research Institute in Yorkshire, England. He thinks that eventually South African soccer athletes will get used to the fancy, temporary turf. He reminds the world that as a boy, he played soccer with a tennis ball on gravel.

Teresa' note: Now those vuvuzelas are another story! A whole month of listening to those might send me looking for the world's largest flyswatter! Those should be banned from the world!

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