Cebu football officials, with the help of the private sector, managed to pull off the feat in transforming a part of the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC) into the best football field outside of Manila.
Last night’s Fifa-sanctioned friendly match between the Philippine Azkals and the Singapore Lions was the feather in the cap of the Cebu Football Association (CFA) led by its president Pericles “Ricky” Dakay.
The CFA took charge of rehabilitating the pitch to Fifa standards while the CCSC management handled the renovation of the support facilities which include the shower and locker rooms.
Rodney Orale of the CFA said players compared the pitch to that of the University of Makati, which the Azkals used for their training sessions when the the Rizal Memorial Stadium was closed for renovation.
Orale said the CFA had spent about P200,000 to make the field well manicured and fit for play.
The Cebu pitch has a stripey effect, which even pitches in Manila don’t have.
The Cebu Sports Center pitch was once described as a “dust bowl” by long-time football coach Graeme MacKinnon as it was bald with patches of grass and riddled with stones which poses grave danger to players and officials on the field.
Orale said they were able to achieve the stripey effect by using the levelling mower was lent to them by the Cebu Country Club in exchange for tickets to last night’s match
Work on the pitch started on the second week of October, over a month after Philippine Football Federation official David Gua inspected the city’s football facilities, particularly the CCSC pitch, as part of preparations for last night’s friendly..
Orale said work went on rain or shine to meet the 30-day deadline to transform the CCSC into a world class pitch.
The CFA tapped the expertise of Rodrigo Villanueva of the Alta Vista Golf and Country Club who recommended a top dressing of fine sand to fill up the holes in the pitch.
Alta Vista also seconded the services of four of its gardeners and lent its fertilizer spreader to maintain the grass growth until the date of the international match.
Orale said the fertilizer had to be evenly spread on the pitch because too much of it in one area will result in ugly patches.
He gave assurances that the fertilizer used would not pose a risk to the players and officials.
To make the pitch even, Dakay Construction Development Corp. lent a mini compactor to flatten bulging portions of the field.
Orale said they had to be extra careful to make sure that the compactor would not destroy the grass roots.
Raking of the grass then followed to create holes to allow water to drain faster and ensure the continuous growth of the grass.
To improve lighting on the pitch, Orale said they installed 12 1,000-watt bulbs and 17 500-watt bulbs.
The 1,000-watt bulbs came from the Philippine Sports Commission while the 500-watt bulbs were taken from the San Roque football field in Subangdaku.
Some of the lights from the CCSC’s swimming pool were temporarily pulled out and installed on the pitch to augment lighting.
CONTRIBUTION TO CEBU FOOTBALL
The CCSC management chipped in about P100,000 to fund the renovation of its shower and locker room facilities. A total of 24 new shower heads were installed in the shower rooms while its tiles were also refurbished to give it an immaculate appearance.
CCSC manager Ricky Ballesteros admitted that they are not expecting to recover the amount they spent for the renovation, but they don’t mind.
“As well as promoting the center, this match being the city’s first international football match will also promote Cebu City and that is what is important,” Ballesteros said.
He added that they are not balking at spending for the renovation because this is their contribution to the Cebu football community who would be given the opportunity to finally get to see an international football match in their own backyard.
With the effort and budget that went into rehabilitating the pitch, Orale said they hope they would be allowed to help in its maintenance.
Ballesteros said Cebu football has received a big boost with the refurbished pitch which is now the envy of football enthusiasts from outside Cebu.
He said that after the match, the pitch will be made available for other uses, particularly as a practice and playing venue for regional and national meets.
Ballesteros said the CCSC field was not created exclusively for football. Next month, the pitch will be made available for Sinulog-related activites.
However, with the rehabilitation to Fifa standards, the pitch will only be made available for use every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
CCSC management has likewise designated personnel to keep the pitch in pristine condition. /Mars G. Alison, Correspondent