Germany-England match to sow seeds of history Natural-grass field to star under dome SOCCER

June 19, 1993|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

PONTIAC, Mich. -- Today's match between Germany and England at the Silverdome will be the first international soccer game played indoors, but the grand old game won't get away from its grass roots.

"Don't confuse this with the indoor leagues," said John N. "Trey" Rogers, one of a group of professors at Michigan State who spent the past three years developing a grass that can survive for short periods without sunlight under a dome.

"Our challenge is to build the Cadillac of soccer fields -- a world-class athletic turf that will be as good or better than the premier soccer fields of the European and South American countries, where soccer has become the world's most popular athletic event. We'll be at the front of something that is going to change sports."

Germany (1-0-1) can clinch the four-nation U.S. Cup '93 title by defeating England (0-1-1) today. Germany trails Brazil (1-0-2), which has completed play. If Germany and England tie, Brazil would win on goal differential, the first tiebreaker.

But this match goes far beyond winning and losing.

If the experiment of playing on natural turf under a roof is successful, World Cup '94 officials will be assured that the four first-round matches scheduled for the Silverdome next summer will be played on a quality field.

It will be the first time the United States will play host to soccer's quadrennial world championship tournament. The Silverdome is one of nine host stadiums for the monthlong, 52-game, 24-nation event.

"It looks sweet, but this is one of those lump-in-the-throat days," said Roger Faulkner, president of the Michigan Host Committee for the World Cup. "A field of dreams that was at one time a concept has become a reality."

Organizers supervised the grass growing and trucked it from Southern California. The grass is a blend of perennial rye and Kentucky bluegrass. Each 7 1/2 -foot-long strip of sod weighs 3,500 pounds, and the field consists of 1,850 hexagons, 50 trapezoids and 88 triangles.

"The pitch is perfect," said England's John Barnes, using the soccer term for field. "You look up and expect to see the sky and the sun."

After the Germany-England game today, the grass will get ... TC another test Monday, when the U.S. national women's team -- which won the first women's world championship in 1991 -- plays Canada in the Silverdome.

After that, the 1,800 trays of grass will be relocated to the Silverdome's parking lot, taking up 300 parking spaces. They will be surrounded by a 10-foot-high fence and watched by security guards.

U.S. CUP '93 FACTS

What: England vs. Germany in final game of four-nation tournament

Site: Silverdome, Pontiac, Mich.

When: Today, 2 p.m.

TV: HTS

Outlook: Germany (1-0-1) can win the U.S. Cup '93 title with a victory. England, which lost to the United States earlier, is 0-1-1. The game, which is expected to attract 50,000, will make history because of the field, if nothing else. For the first time, an international game will be played indoors on grass specially grown to survive without natural sunlight for short periods.

CUP STANDINGS

Team .. .. W .. .. L .. .. T .. GF .. .. GA .. .. Pts

Brazil.. ..1 .. .. 0 .. .. 2 .. 6 .. .. ..4 .. .. .4

Germany .. 1 .. .. 0 .. .. 1 .. 7 .. .. ..6 .. .. .3

U.S. .. .. 1 .. .. 2 .. .. 0 .. 5 .. .. ..6 .. .. .2

England .. 0 .. .. 1 .. .. 1 .. 1 .. .. ..3 .. .. .1

SCHEDULE Today (at Pontiac, Mich.) England vs. Germany, 2 p.m.

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