Meet the man behind Qatar's record-breaking pitch at Khalifa International Stadium
When the players step foot on the new pitch at Khalifa International Stadium on Friday for the Emir Cup final, they will be playing on grass perfected over two years of research, and thoroughly tested to provide the optimal playability and durability for the biggest match of Qatar's football season. For the man behind Qatar's record-breaking grass, creating the perfect football pitch is more than a lifelong passion – it is a scientific undertaking perfected since the same venue hosted the 2006 Asian Games.
"The grass which has been laid at Khalifa International Stadium was developed in Qatar at our turf nursery, and is our signature pitch which has been tested numerous times for playability, durability and others factors," said Yasser Al Mulla, Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) Landscape & Sport Turf Management Senior Manager, standing on the pitch laid down last month in a record time of 13 and a half hours at the newly refurbished venue.
"We performed 14 different types of tests, including how fast the ball rolls across the surface, the height at which it bounces, and other elements where we asked players for their opinion and feedback on the surface. We are confident that we have developed the best ever grass for Qatar, which players from all over the world will greatly enjoy playing on. We performed testing at our research and development centre at the turf nursery on 24 different types of grass, and came to the conclusion that this is the ideal turf for the type of weather conditions we have here in Qatar."
For Al Mulla, who has also been involved in the creation of Aspire Park and even gave Arabic names to different trees, the journey to creating the perfect pitch for 2022 started at the Doha Asian Games in 2006.
"The rapid development and our quest to find the perfect pitch started at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, when we re-turfed the stadium and thereafter created the first department in the region tasked with creating the ideal grass for the pitches here. I studied landscaping at Qatar University and this is more than a passion for me – it is a scientific undertaking which requires the highest professional dedication."
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"It will be a proud moment for me when the players step out onto the pitch," Al Mulla concluded with a smile. "Khalifa International Stadium has a special place in all Qatari hearts, and it makes me proud to have developed the new pitch for the venue where we celebrated the first Gulf Cup win with Qatar in 1992, where the 1995 Youth World Championships were hosted and the Asian Games were inaugurated in 2006. We are helping to create a legacy for other countries in the region to benefit from the knowledge and experience we are gathering here in Qatar ahead of 2022."