Barcelona played Real Valladolid on Saturday in a match remarkable not for any brilliant passages of play or spectacular goals, but instead for the atrocious state of Valladolid’s pitch, which looked more like a sand pit with a thin layer of grass sprinkled on top than a field of play befitting some of the world’s best athletes.
Look in horror at the sizable divots in the sod that sprang up almost every time a player put a foot down—which, soccer being soccer, happened roughly a thousands times every minute:
By the ends of each half (the groundskeepers performed some emergency surgery on the pitch during halftime) there were dozens of little molehills pocking the entire field. The ball could hardly roll a couple feet before hitting a divot and losing speed; players were tripping over the clumps of grass left and right, and the match was an all-around disaster. Barcelona eventually won, 1-0, but they had almost as much trouble navigating past the potholes on the ground as they did getting by Valladolid’s defense.
The issue was that Valladolid didn’t lay the turf until Thursday, which naturally meant the sod didn’t have time to take root. I almost wonder if the game would’ve been more recognizable as a soccer match had they left grass as it was before the sodding:
After the game, Barça defender Gerard Piqué called the field a “disgrace” and noted that the more important issue wasn’t about how the pitch inhibited the play but rather the huge risk of injury the playing surface subjected the players to. Sergio Busquets also blasted the grass, saying “There were areas that seemed more like a beach” than a soccer field. The league will reportedly punish Valladolid for the pitch’s sorry state.
Both Busquets and Piqué reserved their harshest criticisms for La Liga itself, though. Busquets said, “It’s lamentable that the best league in the world is played in these conditions,” and added, “It’s incredible that no one from La Liga felt they should come and check the grass. You can’t play on that.” Piqué, referencing the dumb and greedy new contract the Spanish league struck up with a marketing company that will see one La Liga match played in the U.S. every year, was even more cutting: “Those who want to sell the product and take matches to the United States should really look at what’s going on at home.”