The Allianz Parque lawn controversy once again highlighted the issue of synthetic grass in Brazilian football. In addition to the stadium Palm treesthe Ligga Arena, home of Athleticoand Nilton Santos, from Botafogohave unnatural lawns.
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But the big problem is not the grass itself, which has greater durability, but rather the fillers that seek to make the lawn more natural. Unlike the rubber ones we see in the fields of societyon professional football pitches the materials are of organic and synthetic origins and each one works in a different way.
“What we have in Allianz Parque is the TPE, a mixed plastic filling, which deforms and does not return to its original condition, like rubber, which deforms and returns. The Athletico and Botafogo stadiums have organic fillings”, he detailed Rogério Garcia60 years old, specialist in synthetic lawns.
“The basis on the material of Ligga Arena is the coconut fiberwhich, when it absorbs water, swells and acquires this cushioning role. At Nilton Santos, it’s a cork, which comes from nature. It is a cork grain similar to rubber. These organic materials retain heat less, they do not heat up as much as artificial materials, such as thermoplastics,” he added.
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In the case of Allianz Parque, the weather, the pollution in São Paulo, the accumulation of heat, combined with the high number of shows, caused the TPE to deform and turn into a kind of paste, which ended up sticking to the players’ boots and had wide national repercussion.
“The material reached the point before melting and stuck together. The events, the beads that fell at Taylor Swift’s concerts, all of this got mixed up and crushed the TPE. And as it is a plastic material, it is very difficult to remove. When the material is metallic, it can be removed with a magnet, but with plastic, it was difficult. It will be necessary to change the compound”, added Garcia.
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This Thursday (1st), the WTorre, the company responsible for managing the Palmeiras stadium, informed that it will change the “filling” of the field from thermoplastic composite to cork – similar to that of Botafogo. The stadium is expected to be closed for 20 days, and Palmeiras is expected to lose two at home, against Ituano and Corinthians.
UmDois Esportes brings details of each pitch and explains the differences in technology in each of the three Serie A stadiums:
Ligga Arena: coconut fiber
The Ligga Arena, home of Athletico, uses Italian material, from the manufacturer Italgreen, and has so-called geofill, a compound made from coconut fiber, on its pitch. Since it was opened in 2016, the lawn has never needed to be changed and has a long useful life, according to Rogério Garcia, who even participated in the installation of the field when he was CEO of the company GV Group.
What happens is that every year Furacão adds a little fiber to keep the field in good condition – in the game against Galo Maringá, in fact, some employees were sweeping the field to standardize the amount in all sectors of the pitch. Coconut fiber is a compound that adapts best to moist soil.
“All systems last a long time. Coconut fiber, over time, will decompose. Athletico makes an annual replacement, not a very large quantity, but so that the system remains alive, accordingly. But, every year, FIFA analyzes and certifies. All these fields are tested. At Athletico it was done recently and is ready for 2024. And the pitch itself is in like-new condition,” guaranteed Garcia.
Athletico’s CEO, Alexandre Leitão, commented in a recent interview about the national synthetic grass controversy and argued that the red-black lawn is in good condition and is being maintained up to date.
“In my understanding there are two types of lawn [sintético]: the good and the bad. Good maintenance and poor maintenance. Ours is in the good and well-maintained category,” said Leitão.
Allianz Parque: thermoplastic (TPE)
The pitch at Allianz Parque, opened in 2020, is similar to that of the Ligga Arena, but what changes a lot is this filling compound. The grasses themselves have similar threads, the Arena ones are taller (60 mm) than the Allianz ones (50 mm).
Furthermore, in Curitiba, the roll seams are sewn and placed horizontally, while in São Paulo the floor is glued and installed vertically in the field. In alviverde, there is also a cushioning blanket under the lawn, unlike in red-black. The name of the grass at the Palmeiras stadium is Soccer Grass MX Elite 50 and came from the Netherlands.
The “stuffing” to give a feeling of naturalness is quite different. If at Ligga Arena the product is organic, at Allianz Parque, the compound, as stated, is synthetic, made of cylindrical particles of up to 5 millimeters, holes, and with the most expensive value on the market.
At the Athletico stadium, because coconut fiber absorbs moisture, the demand for irrigation is lower, even necessary. On the Palmeiras field, the greater volume of water in the TPE helped the ball roll more naturally. Now, the compound will also be changed to natural and should be similar to that of Nilton Santos.
Nilton Santos: Cool Play – cork
Opened at the beginning of 2023, the Engenhão pitch, like the other two, also has the international FIFA Quality Pro certificate, but uses different technology from both the Atlético stadium and Allianz Parque. And each lawn has different layers until you get to the grass itself.
In the case of Nilton Santos, the organic complex that comes just below the grass is called Cool Play and is composed of cork, which has an insulating and soft effect.
Then comes silica sand and the Shockpad, a laminated layer that helps fix the grass and has an anti-impact function. The technology is the most current on the market and was inspired by fields in the United States and Europe – the material is from the company FieldTurf and was implemented by Total Grass.