“We get here early in the morning and leave when it gets dark.” That’s how Antonio Caraballo; a man of few words fully committed to his job, describes his workday.
It’s difficult to follow him as he briskly walks around what will be Cuba’s first artificial-turf soccer pitch, currently being built in Havana’s La Polar sports complex. Caraballo, director of the center, keeps a keen eye on both the construction brigades and workers from a non-agricultural cooperative, working alongside Spanish specialists, to build the new facility.
THE OLD PITCH
“The grass was in a very bad condition. Soccer hasn’t been played here in a good while, although there used to be a lot of activity in the past, especially the weekend matches between long-time players from different age groups,” noted the director.
Cuban construction specialists worked hard to build the platform for the new pitch which was later covered with different layers of materials, which according to Spanish specialist José Luis Crespo – advising the construction of the synthetic pitch – were leveled with the use of laser technology.
“The work is part of the FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) Goal Project. With the perimeter fencing already completed, the whole pitch is scheduled to be finished in this initial phase. New bleachers will be built later, as the existing ones collapsed; dugouts will also be installed for the players, as well as, locker rooms, a cafeteria, and head office,” stated Caraballo.
Will the pitch be utilized immediately once the current phase is completed, or will you wait for all the other facilities to be finished?
This has yet to be decided, but I think it should be able to be used straight away, in moderation of course and taking good care of the pitch, maintained through a technique called “combing” to eliminate any possible cracks and keep the surface even. For this task we have a small tractor fitted with brush sweepers,” noted the director, accompanied by Vladimir Massó, who has been working as a soccer facilities operator since 1998.
On our visit we have observed that the workers possess the necessary maintenance equipment. Unused remnants will be kept for possible future repairs, to preserve the terrain, the construction of which was announced in April 2013 during a visit to Havana by then FIFA President, Joseph Blatter, from Switzerland, noted Caraballo.
A TOUCH OF PRECISION
Spaniard José Luis Crespo a representative from the firm Green Fields, has over 32 years experience in the ups and downs of building sports courts and pitches, and is visiting Cuba for a third rime, to follow-up on progress being made on the La Polar pitch.
Enjoying the free-feeling of wearing shorts, a T-shirt, and sandals, he corrected joints in the synthetic pitch before setting them with a bio-adhesive. “It’s been a difficult job, with rains delaying the process, but at the same time we were able to test the drainage and the pitch in general,” stated Crespo.
For someone from the Spanish peninsula, unaccustomed to working out in the sun, the visiting advisor smiled when asked about his relationship with the workers. “Everyone has worked hard to complete the job to a high standard, I’m very pleased, we’ve been working for six days and I think we’ll finish in another 10, more or less the time it takes for similar projects in other countries,” he stated.
Regarding the characteristics of the pitch, Crespo explained that the general grass area will measure 109 meters by 74 meters, while the pitch itself will be 105m by 68; the same as those used by premier league teams in Europe. The texture of the grass is soft, less abrasive with a cushioned base, and is certified by the FIFA, he stated, noting the addition of a warm up area.
La Polar’s old façade is also set to be renovated, while potential exists to build more soccer pitches on neighboring fields. Furthermore, the center could also benefit from repairs to the deteriorated access road.
The current National Soccer Premier League, tournaments between veterans, and many other events will breathe new life into one of Cuba’s oldest sporting facilities.