January 22, 2015 – 5:22PM
Sports reporter at The Canberra Times
The Canberra Stadium surface: so good you could eat spaghetti off it. Photo: Reuters
The Canberra Stadium playing surface has been transformed from a laughing stock to the best in the country.
Fifteen years after the debacle of having the grass needing to be painted green for the 2000 Olympic Games football tournament, Canberra Stadium has become the darling of the Asian Cup.
The playing surface has been given rave reviews ahead of Friday night’s seventh and final game in the national capital – the quarter-final between arch-rivals Iraq and Iran.
While Brisbane Stadium’s shoddy surface has copped criticism from pillar to post, there’s been no such dramas in Canberra, where an immaculate ground has been the perfect setting for sparkling football.
Tran Quoc Tuan from the Asian Football Confederation Organising Committee gave Canberra Stadium the ultimate compliment on Thursday, presenting a plaque to ACT Minister for Sport and Recreation Shane Rattenbury.
“We are very happy that the pitch quality of the stadium is the best in the tournament,” Quoc Tuan said.
Take that, Sydney.
That that, Melbourne.
Take that, Newcastle.
Canberra. The best pitch quality in all of the Asian Cup.
The ringing endorsement from the AFC will be a feather in the bow of the ACT government the next time they go to the table with Football Federation Australia and bid for a Socceroos game.
The ACT government paid $3.5 million to host seven Asian Cup games, an investment which on the surface appears to have been a raging success.
“It’s a wonderful privilege to have the games in Canberra,” Rattenbury said.
“Canberra can be a little bit dead at this time of year as most people are away on holidays, but the Asian Cup has brought some life to the city and everyone is talking about the games.
“Each of the games had their own flavour and nationalities that have come to the city.”
More than 63,000 people have attended the six games so far in Canberra, including a sold-out crowd of 18,457 to watch China beat North Korea 2-1.
Another near capacity crowd is expected for the quarter-final, with Iraq’s passionate supporters to be joined by the large Iran contingent which has followed its team during the tournament.
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said the support had been invaluable to his team’s success.
“The way the fans have created the beautiful party and nice environment around the stadium is always great motivation for the players,” Queiroz said.
“My message to the fans is to welcome them and thank them for their support.
“We should show our gratitude and play a great football match.”
Source : The Canberra Times