The World Cup will be played on African soil, but it won’t be played on African grass

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This is Pennisetum clandestinum. Most of us know it better, from the vistas that roll by our window as we make our way to the coast, from the smell of the wet earth rising through its pores, from the spongy tickle underfoot as we amble towards the pool, as Kikuyu.

This is the green, grass of Africa. It is hardy, fast-growing, good for grazing.

It takes its name from the Kikuyu tribe of East Africa, and you will find it everywhere in our own country as lawn, as pasture, as the emerald battleground for the Beautiful Game.

But you will not find it at our football stadia, come June 2010.

This is partly because Kikuyu is not green, green enough for the prescribed colour palette of international television, and partly because European footballers are not used to its bounce, and partly because Kikuyu has a habit of turning parchment-yellow in winter, inland if not on the rainy Atlantic coast.

So there are no doubt some good scientific and sporting reasons for FIFA to insist that Kikuyu must go, and be replaced by the more tender, more green variety of European ryegrass, as recommended by such experts as the Sports Turf Research Institute in Bingley, West Yorkshire.

And furthermore, this will not be the first time in history that the Europeans have uprooted an indigenous tradition of African life and replaced it with…okay, wait, let’s not get all ideological about this.

It’s the World Cup, remember. The WORLD Cup. But it’s also the first World Cup to be played on African soil, and it would have been nice, even just symbolically nice, to have it played on the same green, green grass that we’ve all grown up playing on too.

*Go here for more on this story: www.guardian.co.uk/football/2009/nov/15/football-world-cup-green-grass

 

 

 

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