Perhaps artificial grass is greener

January 10, 2023 - 05:40
Việt Nam’s national stadium in Hà Nội has come in for plenty of criticism in recent years due to the quality of the playing surface, and that’s continued in the ongoing AFF Championship.
NOT SO GREEN GRASS OF HOME: The less than green grass of Mỹ Đình Stadium, Photo

Peter Cowan

They say the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but then they weren’t talking about Mỹ Đình Stadium, where they?

Việt Nam’s national stadium in Hà Nội has come in for plenty of criticism in recent years due to the quality of the playing surface, and that’s continued in the ongoing AFF Championship.

One needs to just look at a few photos of the brown, chopped-up surface to see it’s far from conducive to playing good passing football and potentially carries injury risks for the players.

Although Việt Nam beat Indonesia last night by two goals to nil, the state of the pitch wasn't anywhere near up to scratch which was clear to see to anyone watching at home.

That, frankly, shouldn’t happen when it comes to the semi-final of what’s supposed to be a prestigious competition, but it’s where we are.

Representatives of the Việt Nam Football Federation (VFF) have pinned the blame on a lack of sunlight over recent months, but for me that excuse doesn’t carry water.

That’s because every time I’ve been to Mỹ Đình Stadium, the surface is poor, whether it’s been used a lot or not.

Climatic conditions can’t be fully to blame when year-round the surface is shoddy and when nearby Hàng Đẫy Stadium tends to be in a (slightly) better state.

Or just look at the PVF Stadium in Hưng Yên Province, just a 45-minute or so motorbike ride from central Hà Nội. That playing surface is invariably pristine and looks like a joy to play on.

If we can’t blame the climate who or what can we blame then?

I’m not entirely sure as while it is the national stadium, the VFF rents it from the management board of Mỹ Đình sports complex.

This board likely has the responsibility for maintaining the ground but frankly, if they aren’t doing the job well enough the VFF still shares some of the blame for not making a bigger issue of the matter.

In the long-term, if a quality natural grass pitch can’t be guaranteed, perhaps the VFF and the Mỹ Đình board should look into installing an artificial surface.

While the fake grass comes in for a lot of criticism, I think a lot of it is unwarranted.

Teams across northern Europe play on artificial surfaces and it hasn’t stopped them from playing good football.

Crusaders FC, the team I support back home in Northern Ireland, have played on an artificial surface for more than a decade, a time which has coincided with the club’s most successful spell ever.

So perhaps fantastic plastic may be the way to go. It would certainly be greener than Mỹ Đình is nowadays. VNS