Football researcher, Robert Griffin III once said: "Every time you step on the football field, in between those lines you're putting your life, your career, and every single ligament in your body in jeopardy." As a result, serious and special attention must be given to our pitches as they have direct effect on the quality of the game and the health of our players.
Before the start of the Ghana Premier League last season, I did a similar write-up regarding our pitches and after the season, most of the players complained again about the quality of the pitches and how it affected their play negatively.
A case study is the nature of pitches in the just ended AFCON in Gabon where many players including our own Baba Rahman had to be ruled out of the tournament due to injuries.
As we approach the start of the league, the questions I would like to ask are; Are our pitches better now? How prepared are these pitches for the upcoming season? Are our players safe? What goes into the approval of these pitches by the Club Licensing Board for league matches?
Reading Griffin's quote above, one gets the impression that the footballer is totally at risk when the football pitch is in a bad shape.
Former Asante Kotoko Coach, David Duncan complained about the nature of our football pitches ahead of the start of the 2015/16 Premier League season and his calls were swept under the carpet.
The quest for the league has been very high. Clubs are ready, players are poised for action while the fans have cleared their throats for the shouts. But what about our fields, are our fields really ready for the challenge of the 2016/17 season?
In my opinion, some of the match venues must not be approved for the upcoming league matches if you take a look at the sixteen match venues for the season, the nature of the pitches and their readiness for action.
If I had my way, I will disqualify some centers including the Nana Agyemang Badu Park in Dormaa, the Bechem Park, the Berekum Golden City Park and the Tamale Utrecht Park.
Accra Hearts of Oak - [The Accra Sports Stadium]
Elmina Sharks [Nduom Sports Stadium]
Aduana Stars [Nana Agyemang Badu II Park]
The home venue of the highly-tipped side to win the 2016/17 Premier League, the Nana Agyemang Badu II Park appears to have a brown grass ahead of the season. Well, it was not surprising as almost all the teams in the Brong Ahafo Region as well as Wa All Stars have the same fields. Could it be because of the harmattan? But that was the state last season and it appears the same this season. Must this pitch be passed for a Premier League game?
Bolga All Stars [Utrecht Park]
The newly promoted side has chosen the Tamale Utrecht Park as their home venue for the start of the season. Reports are that work is hastily ongoing on the Bolga Stadium to shape it to the standard of hosting league matches. The Utrecht Park appears well carved out but the state of the pitch and the yellow colour of the grass are alarming. Perhaps a second look must be given this facility by the Club Licensing Board to pass for a Premier League Venue. Take a look at the field.
Ebusua Dwarfs [Cape Coast Sports Stadium]
Last season, the Crabs used the Robert Mensah Sports Stadium but have switched camp to the newly-built Cape Coast Stadium for the upcoming League. The Cape Coast Stadium is currently one of the best stadiums in the country and the pitch is simply magnificent. The standard is perfect and teams will surely find comfort there when playing. Great pitch in Cape Coast.
Berekum Chelsea [Golden City Park]
Last season, The Blues played on a yellow-like surface in the beginning of the Ghana Premier League which turned green as the rains started coming and it is the same this year. The Golden City Park had been described by many as the Lion's Den but in recent times, it has been a very accommodating venue for many clubs. For the brown colour of the pitch, it appears a normal thing for all the clubs in the northern part of Ghana. Berekum Chelsea obviously look set for the league but what about the pitch at the Golden City Park? Is it a case of our clubs allowing nature to care for their fields or taking care of the pitches themselves? The situation in Berekum does not show promise of changing.
Bechem United [Bechem Park]
Bechem United are winners of the MTN FA Cup last season and representatives in the CAF Confederations Cup but their pitch does not look prepared for the league. To be honest, the multi-coloured nature of the Bechem Park is a death trap for players and must not pass for Premier League center. Some parts are brown as you see the bare ground while other parts show a mixture of grass and brown sand. Not the best at all.
Medeama SC [ T & A Park]
The Tarkwa T&A Park will be one of the centers with the best of pitches for the league this season. The management of the club have invested in getting the hitherto brown surface change to green. Football at the T&A will surely be exciting this season.
The pitch at Sogakope needs no much description. It is one of the two AstroTurf pitches in the country. No wonder teams struggle for water anytime they play the soccer mathematicians at the venue. WAFA will surely discipline many clubs that are not familiar with the artificial pitch. Both Hearts and Kotoko suffered defeats at the Red Bull Arena last season with the Phobians suffering their heaviest defeat there.
Wa All Stars [Wa Park]
The Wa Park confirms the fact that clubs up north have come to accept the brown pitch as a replacement for the green field. The Wa Park looked not that ready for the league as many will take a second look when told it is a center for Premier League matches. It is a confirmation of the fact that most clubs rely on nature for the betterment of their pitches and no conscious efforts are taken towards that. However, it is better than Bechem, Berekum, Dormaa and Tamale Utrecht pitches.
Inter Allies [El-Wak Stadium]
Inter Allies will this season relocate to the El-Wak Stadium for their matches leaving the Tema Park for newcomers Tema Youth FC. The El-Wak pitch appeared relatively green with patches of muddy areas on the surface. The pitch looked tired with indications that it has been exposed to pressure. Despite these, it is surely better than the Bechem, Dormaa and Berekum Parks. How Inter Allies will fare on it is also another issue as they are used to the Astroturf.
Tema Youth FC [Tema Park]
The other Astroturf in the country apart from the one at Sogakope is the Tema Park. Inter Allies enjoyed playing comfortably on the pitch given their opponents a good run for their money last season. But they have left for the El-Wak Sports Stadium leaving it for Tema Youth who are newly promoted. Players will surely increase their water intake when they meet the newly promoted side on the artificial pitch.
Liberty Professionals [Alhaji Sly Tetteh Park]
The Alhaji Sly Tetteh Park at Dansoman is not the best but it is surely better than most of the pitches mentioned so far. The grass looked green with few grass-less areas. This was the state last season and I think they could have put it in a better state if the Club Licensing Board had been a little more strict in evaluating the pitches.
Asante Kotoko [Baba Yara Sports Stadium]
Asante Kotoko have always enjoyed playing on one of the best pitches in the country. Ahead of the start of the league, the pitch at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium looked very green and ready for action. Last season there were areas on the pitch where the grass looked pale ahead of the league but the entire pitch is completely green ahead of the start of the season as they host Liberty Professionals on Sunday.
AshantiGold SC [Len Clay Stadium]
The Len Clay Stadium has always been one of the well managed football venues in the country with an excellent field management. The Len Clay pitch has been admired by many in the country and is surely one of the pitches players always love to play on. At the time of filing this report, the pitch was under mowing with hopes that it will be set for the start of the season.
By: Sheikh Tophic Sienu @desheikh1 on twitter