According to football specialists, the perfect turf is intense green and 23 millimeters high, allowing players to develop their game at full speed. And for the organizers of the 2022 Men’s World Cup, the most perfect of perfect turf comes from the US state of Georgia, where it is developed by the company Atlas Turf International.
As Quartz explains, this company has actually been commissioned by Qatar to outfit eight stadiums and eighty-one practice fields by installing Platinum TE Paspalum, its star turf, grown in the southeastern United States. A heavy responsibility, says CEO John Holmes — who, it should be noted, is only a namesake of the porn star once played on screen by Val Kilmer.
“It’s nerve-wracking” confides the boss, who constantly fears that his lawn won’t survive the event – which would be the worst publicity. But his concerns don’t stop there: providing a pitch of poor quality increases the risk of a player being injured.
To reassure himself, John Holmes scrutinizes the matches closely. He checks that his precious turf is not damaged, that the area in front of the goals – one of the most abused – is holding up well and that the corners of the pitch are not drying out – these are the worst areas less sunny, therefore the hardest to keep in good condition . For now, his lawns are holding up. And since the tournament is coming to an end, it should be like this until the end.
One hell of a challenge
Platinum TE Paspalum’s good health after a month of competition is of course excellent news for Atlas Turf International, especially since this turf is being sold as the surface of the future: it is one of those that require the least water (25% to 30). % less than average) and emits the least carbon.
The challenge was all the more daunting as the weather conditions made the mission more complicated than average. Due to the high temperatures, Qatar’s stadiums have actually been built in such a way as to create as much shade as possible inside the enclosures, which is beneficial for the players and the public, but less so for photosynthesis. As for displacements of air, they are extremely rare.
Platinum TE Paspalum was chosen precisely for its resistance to extreme conditions. Salt water, stagnant air, insufficient light: on paper it supports everything and worse. Developed by an expert named Ron Duncan, who developed his know-how at the University of Georgia, it was officially born in 2007.
It is in Adel, a town of 5,000 souls, located 300 kilometers south of Atlanta, that this grass grows trampled by Kylian Mbappé, Ousmane Dembélé and the others. After three months of growth, the twigs destined for Qatar were harvested there, washed, packed and then shipped to Doha by sea in refrigerated containers.
The first shipments were made in 2014 to Al-Rayyan stadium. Since then, no less than 138 tonnes of grass have been sent to the various WC courses.
The sprigs were not immediately installed in the stadiums for which they were intended: when they arrived on site, they were first planted on dedicated surfaces near the stadiums. Their development continued and once they had formed a compact turf, strips of turf were cut, rolled and then transferred to the final pitches.
The grass may be quite green in itself, but unfortunately this is not the case with the conditions that the Qatari organizer has put in place to preserve it until the end of the tournament, regrets Quartz: Important air conditioning ensures a minimum of air circulation and it takes about 8,300 liters of water every day to water it. A winter number to be multiplied by five when summer comes.
The water needed for irrigation is also obtained by desalination, a process whose carbon footprint is absolutely catastrophic. Proof that this lawn, as green as it may seem, is really only on the surface.