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Copa America 2024: Poor ground surfaces, injury concerns & player complaints

Published at :July 10, 2024 at 11:59 PM
Modified at :July 10, 2024 at 11:59 PM
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Rajarshi Shukla

USA have been criticised for poor grounds in Copa America 2024.

The current standard of play in the United States has negatively impacted the quality of the ongoing Copa America 2024 event. The simultaneous staging of the two largest international football competitions, Euro 2024 and Copa America 2024 has led to a verbal sparring match off the pitch.

However, Copa America 2024’s playing conditions in the United States is undoubtedly not helping the cause. There seem to be no complaints in this regard at the Euro 2024 ongoing in Germany.

Argentina keeper Emiliano Martinez said, “A field that is a disaster made it a little difficult. We have to improve in that aspect. Otherwise, the Copa America will always be at a lower level than the European Championship.”

Why USA grounds have faced criticism in Copa America 2024?

Though 14 stadiums host the current Copa America 2024, not all of them were designed with football in mind. NFL (National Football League), the most watched sport in the US, have hosted events at eleven of the fourteen venues, which are multipurpose stadiums.

NFL fields are smaller, measuring 110 metres in length but just 49 metres in width. FIFA rules state that a football pitch must be at least 100 metres long and 64 metres broad. Because of this, stadiums now have to figure out how to enlarge the pitch as much as possible without allowing any space for players to stand outside the touchline.

These pitches are the same size as those used by U-13 football players in Europe to practise making the switch from 9-a-side to 11-a-side football, according to observations. It is detrimental to force some of the world’s top players to play on smaller fields, particularly in South American football, where teams are accustomed to relying more on the skill and flare of individual players than on off-field strategies.

Injury concerns due to poor surface

The problems extend beyond the pitches’ dimensions to include surface conditions. Because artificial grass is typically used for sports in America, temporary grass was laid in the stadiums before the Copa America 2024 began.

This indicates that the grass is not organically produced in the stadia; rather, it is grown somewhere else, transported, and then patched together and set down on top of the artificial field. The Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s opening game pitch was built barely three days before the game day, despite months of preparedness.

Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni called out the competition on how they maintained the pitches and said: “We gave not necessarily a good game, but a game according to the pitch and what the opponent proposed. We couldn’t do much more with the conditions of the pitch. Look at the speed of the passes that we did.

Peru head coach Jorge Fossati attributed Luis Advincula’s Achilles injury, which forced him to exit his group stage match against Chile early, to the surface in Dallas. Players can be out for an extended period of time due to such injuries, which are not entirely their fault.

In addition to surface-related injuries, the smaller fields have made players play much more physically, as evidenced by the rise in fouls in this tournament.

“I realise that this is a grass field today, but it’s not normal grass. The harder surface can affect you in that exact place [the Achilles]. I’m not a doctor but I’ve been around football for a few years.” Fossati sighed.

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