A closer look at our most unloved Football pitch

The Passionate Fan

It's a house of horrors, where ground balls bob and weave, back passes to the keeper become adventures, and even your longest studs aren't quite long enough.

Welcome to the University of Makati's Football pitch. The field of nightmares for so many of the UFL's players.

It's mushy and puddly. Sometimes hard as cement, other times marshy. It's where the precise, short-passing Beautiful Game comes to die.

And just when you think you've seen the Umak's notorious moonscape at its worst, it sinks, figuratively and literally, even lower.

An NCRFA Division 3 match was played on the rain-softened surface last Sunday. It left the field in such a bad state that the league was forced to scuttle the Sunday slate of games and postpone them a day later.

Umak groundskeeper Jun Villanueva and his crew covered the soggy bits with 1000 bags of sand on Monday morning to restore a semblance of playability.

But it turned the area in front of the grandstand into a grayish mosh pit of sand and muck.

I kidded Meralco defender Chad Gould about it, saying he'd feel right at home, since he has represented England in Beach Football.

"I get a lot of complaints about the pitch, but I'm not a miracle worker" moans Match Coordinator Ritchie Gannaban.

Gannaban explains that the surface lacks a basic herringbone drainage system, which is why water remains on the field long after a deluge.

I've also been told that the sod is garden-variety, and not really up to spec with that of a proper Football pitch, which under FIFA guidelines should have six layers of sand, soil and topsoil.

Matt Cullen of the Philippine Rugby Football Union told me that the PRFU offered to install drainage there for free, but the offer fell on deaf ears.

There has even been talk of turning it into an artificial grass field. But none of that has materialized.

The field also slopes like a tarmac road surface, with the center of the field much higher than the sides. The result? Some parts of the center are rock-hard while the sides that collect the water are mostly spongy and squishy.

Players slipped and slid throughout both matches on Monday, and goalies often lost their footing on goal kicks.

Even the spots in the turf that were grassy were treacherous, causing players to slip and create meter-long skid marks.

Phil Younghusband somehow managed to score five goals in the swamp against Mendiola, none better than his third, a terrific close-range finish with the ball jinking and caroming off the dicey mud.

The poor quality field is the only reason to dislike the Umak stadium. It is a terrific, clean design with a good grandstand, modern light towers, great seating, and a wonderful rubberized track. Very little expense has been spared with it. The bathroom fixtures are Kohler.

It's also very conveniently located, just one jeep ride away from the Guadalupe MRT stadium.

One wonders how so much money could be spent on such a facility, and yet proper drainage for the field was overlooked.

It's a world-class facility housing a substandard pitch.

But the suffering will be over soon. UFL head honcho Santi Araneta bared in Monday's press con that the McKinley Hill field will be ready by November 30. It will feature the same artificial grass that players have been enjoying in Turf BGC for months. The accompanying grandstand will follow soon.

I've also been told that a property developer is building yet another field in Metro Manila that could conceivably host UFL games.

But until then UFL players must endure four more quarterfinal games at Umak, before the semis and finals shifts to the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.

In case you're wondering, Rizal Memorial isn't available for the quarters because the Asian U16 Women's qualifiers are being held there starting this week.

One player who can't wait to see the Umak era end is James Younghusband. During the game against Mendiola he could be seen kicking the sand disdainfully and shaking his head.

"Is this the worst you've ever seen this pitch?" I asked him as he strode off the field.

"It's the worst pitch I've ever played in" he replied.

You can follow Bob on Twitter @bhobg333.

Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.

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