When the weather is like it is this winter in St. Petersburg, it`s hard to believe that football can exist in the city. But Zenit has to get ready to take on Young Boys in these difficult winter conditions on February 24th.
Knowing that, Petrovsky Stadium`s management department didn`t stop working even for a second this winter. The preparations for the first match of the season started already in December of last year, as soon as the final whistle of Zenit`s last home match of the 2010 season was blown. This was the match with Anderlecht, which Zenit won confidently. And three days before that Zenit officially won the Russian Championship at home against Krylya Sovetov. But the two matches in freezing weather had their effect on the pitch at Petrovsky Stadium.
– The grass was severely damaged. It took a lot of time to restore it, – admitted Vladimir Litvinov, managing director of Petrovsky Stadium. – The pitch suffered a lot.
So the stadium`s management had less than three winter months to get the field in shape. Together with a famous company on the Russian market which specializes in preparing pitches, the stadium management decided to choose a non-traditional way for the grass to “hibernate”. The particularity of the method is that the field heaters weren`t turned off at all for the winter, and the grass didn`t "sleep", thereby continually staying in working condition.
– We`ll turn off the heater only once the warm weather comes, – explain Vladimir Litvinov. – The grass is covered with a special material which makes it possible for the grass to breath and at the same time keep certain temperature characteristics. The grass is in a sort of hotbed: changes in temperature don`t have an effect on it, and moisture doesn`t collect under the covering. Furthermore, no snow cover forms on this covering, which is very important.
That said it`s impossible to say for now what condition exactly the field will be in for the first home match. That`s because it`s not clear how the grass will react once it comes into the cold. But the stadium management gives its guarantee that it will be possible to play on the grass on February 24th.
The second really important question concerns the future of the field. It`s one thing to play a Europa League match in February with the Swiss. It`s another thing what state the field will be in after 90 minutes of play. Unfortunately Petrovsky Stadium has already had experience with “dead” pitches. What can be done this time?
– Miracles don`t exist. Conducting matches at this time of year in our climate zone puts really big stress on the grass, – admitted Litvinov, managing director of Petrovsky. – We have a natural field, so it will be impossible to avoid heavy damage after the first match. But the schedule of home matches is such that there will be one home match in February, one in March, and then the rest will start in April. We have time to get the field into normal working condition, to help it get back in form. In the spring, when it gets warmer, the grass will be no worse than it was this year.