World Cup may be played on plastic, says Blatter

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The Independent Online

Sepp Blatter has revealed Fifa is ready to consider the idea of the 2010 World Cup being played on artificial pitches. The president of world football's governing body has expressed concern at the quality of grass surfaces he has seen in Africa, where long spells of hot sun and drought are frequently followed by torrential downpours.

And Blatter has risked the wrath of the many opponents of "plastic" pitches worldwide by claiming they could even be used in the World Cup in South Africa in three years' time.

"We have envisaged, though it's not yet a final decision, that the 2010 World Cup could be played on artificial turf," Blatter said yesterday. "I think it's now time in this region to think about artificial turf. An artificial pitch gives you the same conditions during the whole year."

Blatter claimed his fears were confirmed during the African Nations Cup in Ghana which was completed at the weekend.

"I've followed with a lot of interest most of the matches of this competition, and I have to say that African football is at a very high level," he said. "What I've not not liked so much is the turf, especially in Accra – the grass is too high.

"Artificial turf is a solution to the owners of stadiums – you can use it more than just once a week, you can use it for other sports.

"I think it's better than uneven ground, where control of the ball is not easy."

Fifa's "Win in Africa with Africa" project means that an artificial pitch is being laid in all 53 of its member countries on the continent, with the exception of South Africa.

The news may evoke bad memories for England supporters, who saw their side suffer a vital defeat on artificial turf when they played Russia in a European Championship qualifier in October last year.

England – who were beaten 2-1 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow – subsequently failed to qualify for the tournament, to be played in the summer.

Modern artificial pitches, however, are far more advanced than the abrasive, bouncy pitches that made Kenilworth Road and Loftus Road so notorious among travelling teams in the 1980s.

"Long-pile" turf is composed of tall, imitation grass blades embedded in a mixture of sand and rubber granules. It has helped to eliminate carpet burn and bizarre bounces while also greatly reducing the number of injuries.

In addition, artificial pitches are cheap and easy to maintain, and play just as well at any time of the year, in any weather.

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