Irishman pitches in for World Cup working with FIFA
The Republic of Ireland football team may not have been heading to South Africa last summer but an Irishman laid the foundations for a successful World Cup, having been tasked by FIFA with ensuring that all 10 World Cup stadia met the required standard.
STRI, led by director of operations Richard Hayden, prepared the 10 showpiece stadium pitches, 32 training camps and 12 venue-specific training sites in South Africa.
The 30 year old, originally from Graignamanagh in Kilkenny, and his seven-strong STRI team were appointed with 100 days to go to the World Cup, and worked tirelessly to deliver world-class pitches throughout the tournament.
Commenting on the 2010 World Cup venues, Richard said: “Heading the STRI team in South Africa was a rewarding and challenging experience. The climate in South Africa varies from venue to venue, which has a considerable impact on what we do with the grass. The usual grasses in South Africa, such as Kikuyu which is a warm season base grass, thrive well in high temperatures, however the World Cup was played during the South African winter. During this time the usual grass species are dormant so our aim was to provide grasses that have fast re-growth and durability throughout the tournament, mainly perennial and annual ryegrass, which are well suited to moderate climates and would perform better throughout the tournament.”
Richard added: “There was particular concern about the pitch at the Mbombela Stadium, which wasn’t in place when the media tour took place in February.” With just 100 days to go to the start of the World Cup and under international press scrutiny, FIFA contracted Hayden and STRI who supervised the construction of the pitch which was green and playable in just 7 weeks from seeding.
The Mbombela pitch received its biggest test during South Africa’s World Cup warm up game against Thailand, a game the hosts won 4-0 and received rave reviews.
He concluded: “We promised there would be grass at Mbombela within two weeks of reseeding, a playable pitch within six weeks and a world-class standard pitch within eight weeks, and we delivered this. Our performance testing programme and fine-tuning of the pitches continued throughout the World Cup.”