DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, Jul 11- Record 15-time Kenyan Premier League champions Gor Mahia will square it out with English Premier League side Everton FC on a new playing surface at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam, specifically laid out with imported grass for the game.
The pitch has been closed for the last five weeks and sponsors of both clubs, SportPesa, have contracted renowned English Sportsground Construction and Civil Engineering Company Clive Richardson Limited for the job.
The amazing status of the playing surface wowed Gor Mahia players who made it for their light evening work-out under new head coach Dylan Kerr.
“Now this is a football pitch!” assistant coach Zedekiah Otieno marveled as he laid out cones on the pitch ready for the session.
Team Manager Jolawi Obondo speaking to Capital Sport said he expects an exciting game especially with the flat out smooth surface favoring Gor Mahia’s ‘tap and go’ game.
“The field is amazing and we should have a great game here. This is what a football field should look like. It is very even and well maintained,” Obondo said.
Gor Mahia head coach Dylan Kerr, who spent 15 months in Tanzania with Simba SC whose home matches were at the same pitch, was equally marveled with the new look.
“I mean I kept telling them every day to cut down the grass but they never did so. You could hit a pass, go out and have a McDonald’s and return to the pitch before the pass got to the next player. The grass was too thick!” Kerr joked on the sides as Gor prepared for training.
Turning up against a professional side already used to playing in well manicured lawns and to prevent the increasing risk of injury, the South England Company took over the task of refurbishing the playing surface and have done an immensely marvelous job at it.
Speaking to Capital Sport, groundsman Shane McGeown, who has worked in almost all the popular football pitches including Old Trafford and St. Mary’s in Southampton, said for such a team as Everton, the state of the surface was a key concern and it had to be meticulous.
He revealed that the company imported 20 bags of Rye Grass from Northern Ireland and merged it together with the already existing Bermuda grass.
Rye grass is known for its quick growing nature and resistance to pests, meaning it is more eco-friendly as a lesser amount of chemicals are used on it.
It is also one of the few “throw and grow” seeds that can be sown without the hassle of tilling, scarifying, or digging into the soil and destroying any of the permanent ground covers already in place.
Bermuda grass which is the most common on African pitches is valued for its exceptional heat and drought tolerance and a capacity to withstand heavy use and recuperate quickly. Its blend with Rye makes out a perfect balance in texture of the pitch. Just like Rye, it grows very fast.
“The pitch was not good when we arrived here. We had to rip apart the entire surface. There was so much dead grass around and we had to get rid of all of it. We also dug up a new foundation and put up layers of sand to ensure a good foundation,” McGeown said.
He added; “We had to put in new fertilizer (Everest) and also get to put in some new chemicals time and again to kill off any diseases that would eat up the grass. I think the product looks fantastic now.”
The pitch has been made to European standards with the match organizers hoping to put up a superb show for the English premier League side.
His only concern though is the maintenance after he leaves, though he says he might consider remaining for a further three months.
“I heard that the stadium last season was used for over 40 matches. That’s insane. The most a pitch can hold should be maximum of 23 matches to ensure it remains fresh and well maintained,” the Irish pitch expert noted.
-Timothy Olobulu is reporting from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania-