After a 20-year career at the highest level, Cafu knows a thing or two about the importance of a good pitch. Likewise, he is acutely aware of how a poor playing surface can spoil the spectacle, change the course of a game and even endanger the players’ health.
From the moment it all began at Sao Paulo and throughout his long career in Europe, the former Brazil captain and FIFA World Cup™ winner in 1994 and 2002 played on all manner of pitches prior to hanging up his boots in 2008. Few are better qualified to talk about the subject.
On Friday, Cafu was one of 237 people in Sao Paulo attending the second and final day of the fourth Seminar on the Preparation of Pitches for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil held by the Local Organising Committee (LOC). Representatives from all 12 World Cup stadia, the National Team Training Centres (CTSs) and the Official Training Camps (OTCs) were also present.
Sitting alongside the LOC's Competition and Team Services general manager, Frederico Nantes, the Alagoas World Cup Committee coordinator and head of the Maceio CTS, Marcos Pradines, and the agronomist Maristela Kuhn, Cafu spoke to journalists. He explained why it was crucial that the pitches at the CTSs and OTCs were of a similar high standard to the surfaces at the 12 World Cup venues.
“It’s vital that the playing surfaces at the CTSs are of same quality as in the stadium. For a player it is important to train in the same conditions that you are going to play in,” said Cafu, pointing out that having pitches of the highest quality can reduce the risk of injuries.
“There’s no point having a great medical team and top-notch rehab facilities if the pitch is hard, overgrown or full of divots," he went on. "It would be bad news for everyone.”
The ex-Seleção skipper is amazed at the range of technology used to care for the pitches nowadays: “If today’s techniques to care for the World Cup pitches were used in my time, especially when I started out, I may have still been playing today. My joints would have held out a while longer!
“At the FIFA World Cup we won’t have any divots for strikers to blame," he joked. "We may have some rugged defenders, but I can promise you that we won’t have any divots."
Maceio OTC: leaving a legacy
Maceio is the headquarters of one of the 32 World Cup CTSs. Named O Rei Pele (King Pele), it will be Ghana’s base. Although the city will not host any matches, the capital of Alagoas sees the tournament as an excellent opportunity.
“Although we are not one of the 12 host venues, we realise that accommodating one of the World Cup teams is an excellent opportunity for Alagoas and for Maceio in particular," said Padrines. "The improvements made at O Rei Pele enable us to leave a legacy for football in the State.
"Furthermore, it’s a great chance to showcase the city,” concluded Padrines, who is looking forward to welcoming the Africans. “We are eager and delighted to receive them. As we are saying in Maceio, we are now Ghanaians since birth.”