Until very recently, it was almost impossible for the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) to plan the annual use of the pitches at their High Performance Centre (CAR).
The juggling act was highly complicated with three full-size and two half-size pitches catering for seven men’s teams (U-15, U-16, U-17, U-18, U-20, U-22 and senior) and four women’s teams (U-15, U-17, U-20 and senior), each with 20-25 players and their respective coaching staff.
As if that wasn’t enough, the weather was also an uncontrollable factor. Located in the south of Mexico City, the centre is surrounded by a beautiful green and wooded landscape. However, the volume of rain experienced for much of the year and a problem with the water filtration system on one of the three full-size pitches meant it spent long periods out of action.
For this reason, it was decided to transform it into a hybrid pitch (a combination of natural and synthetic turf). With the support of the FIFA Forward programme which provided technical advice and funding of more than USD $1million, it became the first pitch of its kind built with Forward resources in the Central, North America and Caribbean region.
“Having a hybrid pitch is very important because it allows us to use the pitch more frequently for our many national teams,” said Duilio Davino, Sporting Director of the FMF.
“We can put in more hours per week and have it in perfect condition at all times. The pitch gets less cut up, so there is less risk of injury. It also helps the players who play in Europe because the pitches there are usually like that,” he added.
What are the secrets behind such a pitch? Daniel García, the Infrastructure Manager in charge of carrying out the work, explains the details: “The difference between a traditional pitch and a hybrid pitch is in the ground. The hybrid has gravel and sand soil that facilitates the pitch’s filtration and the sowing of the synthetic fibre. A pitch like this has a specific drainage system so that water does not overflow onto the surface.”
The pitch underwent a radical transformation in four months. “The most important challenge was the shaping of the pitch. Laying the gravel, then sand, then sand with substrate. It is a meticulous and handcrafted task that could only be achieved thanks to the coordination of all those involved in the project.”
The effort put into the pitch is already paying off. “Now when we have a lot of rain, this pitch filters a large volume of water. A traditional pitch fills up with water, and there comes a time when there is so much that it cannot be drained, and it is not safe to play. On a hybrid pitch, we will always have that hardness,” García continued.
A football pitch is not a good pitch however until the ball rolls and it is given a thumbs-up of approval. “The project has been completed and is already in operation with the senior national team. We can confirm via the testimony of the coaching staff and players that this pitch meets the requirements for training and daily use,” says Abel Estrada, the FMF’s Director of Administration.
“I would like to thank FIFA because without the great support they gave us through the FIFA Forward resources, we would not have been able to complete this important project.”
The resounding success of the pitch will undoubtedly boost men’s and women’s football in Mexico at all levels. Beyond the country’s border, it is also having a wider impact.
“Working with the FMF on this project has been a pleasure. From the strategic planning, the identification of this need, and from there, the planning and execution of the work,” said Raúl Méndez, Regional Development Manager of the FIFA Regional Office in Panama.
“Although the project lasted four months, the planning took much longer because it was necessary to reach an agreement with all those involved, working around the dates when different national teams would train at the centre. We have been able to leave a great legacy in Mexico but also spark an interest among other member federations in carrying out a project of this type,” he concluded.