The National Sports Commission on Thursday in Abuja defended the N96.6 million re-grassing work at the National Stadium, Abuja.
Alhaji Shehu Ibrahim, Director, Stadia and Facilities, National Sports Commission, said the pitch had been re-grassed to meet FIFA standards, irrespective of the outcome of the inspection of the House Sports Committee.
The House of Representatives Committee on Sports on September 25 inspected the pitch, as part of its oversight functions.
The committee, led by its Chairman, Hon. Godfrey Gaiya, had described the N96.6 million used for the re-grassing of the pitch as “doubtful”.
Ibrahim, however, said the pitch could rank among the best anywhere in the world, contrary to the views of the legislators.
He said: “Some Nigerians don’t have the knowledge of what it takes to have a pitch.
“It does not mean that if you have rain water drop on the field, it automatically drains up.
“No, it doesn’t happen that way.
“First of all, the grass is not synthetic.
“It’s a natural grass and anything natural needs moisture and nutrients to grow and part of these nutrients is water.
“So, we don’t expect that the moment you have water dropping on the pitch, it just drains up.
“It must take between 15 and 30 minutes to drain up, depending on the intensity of the rain.
“The drainage system we have in the pitch is not like the one we have in the local stadia.
“That of the Abuja stadium is completely underground.”
Anthony Agboni, a Julius Berger Plc consultant, expressed disappointment over the comments of the legislators, saying it demeaned the quality of work done on the pitch.
Agboni said the committee should have commended both the NSC and the company for a job well done, rather than “rubbish a six-month effort to revive the pitch.
“If the field should just drain instantly when raining, it means that the pitch was poorly constructed.
“We have different styles of constructing a football pitch.
“We have a sand-based football pitch and in that case, there is no component of nutrient in that area.
“In sand-based pitch, play is done purely on sand and there is no water retention anywhere during rain.
“But in the case of the Abuja stadium pitch, it has a well-modified foot zone, to be able to get the nutrient required for the plant to grow and to retain the moisture content.
“If the tar system is adopted here, it means that the grass will not survive during the rainy season and the tendency of holding the nutrient will not be there.
“All you will see is a completely different colour and a lot of lynching, which will cost a lot of maintenance.”
The contract to rehabilitate the pitch was awarded to Julius Berger Plc in January.
The scope of work completed included the removal and replacement of the top soil, and the planting of the approved specie of grass.
The grass was also well-watered and nourished until its roots were established.
Others included the maintenance of the pitch, watering and trimming of the grass, as well as the provision of new water sprinklers for the stadium.