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Russian football is booming, but in one area it lags behind: the quality of the pitches is abominable. The players are rebelling. Eto’o: ‘You can’t play good football on these pitches.'

 

Former Torpedo Moscow player Vladimir Leonchenko gave a presentation about the condition of pitches in Russia during last week’s FIFPro’s Technical Committee Meeting.

 

Leonchenko: ‘The quality of the pitches in Russia is disgraceful. There is enough money. We are talking here about clubs with budgets of 70-80 million Euro. But there is simply no willingness and also no knowledge to invest in the pitches. This is very bad for the image of Russian football.’

 

Since the beginning of this year, the Russian players’ union has started a pitch rating system, such as the one FIFPro has introduced with other members. After each match, the captain of the visiting team is asked to give the pitch a mark. The results are damning and hopefully will open the eyes of those responsible.

 

Russian international Igor Semshov of Dynamo Moscow: ‘We should face the truth, but we are for some reason running away from it. If we want to show good football, if we want supporters to come to the stadiums we need normal conditions.’

 

 

Russian international Roman Shirokov of FC Zenit St. Petersburg: ‘How can you play in such a garden? If the groundsman has chickens and goats let him use it. You just cannot play football here.’

 

Russian international Vladimir Gabulov comes to the support of his fellow team member Samuel Eto’o at FC Anzhi: ‘The Russian pitches are worse than those on which Eto’o played in his childhood in Africa.’

 

Eto’o himself, the poster boy of the Russian competition, gives his opinion of the situation: ‘When I was considering the possibility to go to Russia, I was told that the main problem is the cold. But after a while in Russia I understood that the main problem of Russian football is the conditions of the pitches. The present pitches do not allow us to play as we can. This is not football, this is something else.’

 

Sergei Pryadkin, president of the Russian Football Premier League, is also concerned: ‘Russian clubs should understand that the income of the clubs also depends on the conditions of the pitch. It is impossible to engage partners if there is no beautiful game.’

 

 

FIFPro's Vladimir Leonchenko knows what is needed: ‘Clubs must invest a part of their large budgets in improving the pitches and increasing the knowledge of their staff. Half of the English Premier League plays on natural grass pitches, that are reinforced with a percentage of artificial grass. That would be a major step forward in Russia (several years ago such pitch used to be at the Lokomotiv stadium), but at the moment, people in Russia do not use this possibility.

 

The federation has now obligated all professional clubs in Russia to have an indoor accommodation with artificial grass with a capacity of 3,000 spectators as an alternative when necessary. Leonchenko: ‘That is, of course, not a solution. What is a capacity for 3,000 spectators for a competition that wants to develop into the top of world football?'

 

According to Leonchenko, from the beginning of March, matches in Russia should only be played in the south of Russia (at FC Anzhi, Terek Grozny, Rostov, Kuban and Krasnodar) and on the artificial surface in the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow. Leonchenko: ‘Not only are the other pitches at the start of March in an appalling condition, but also because by playing on them in that period, you destroy the pitches for the rest of the season.’

 

If, because of climate conditions, teams must play on artificial pitches, make sure, advises Leonchenko, that you make use of the best quality available. ‘The artificial pitch of the Luzhniki Stadium is good, but the artificial grass that is currently used at Amkar Perm and Volga Novgorod for example is of an inferior quality.’

 

The results of the Russian pitch competition, including the assessment of the Russian pitches by the players, will be published in the second half of May.