The sad story of Ghana’s AstroTurf pitches

By Majesty 9 Min Read

Three years ago, when Bukom Square was equipped with an Astroturf pitch, audience stands, and floodlights for nighttime performance, the community was overjoyed. The experience evoked a sense of accomplishment and exhilaration.

At last, they had a suitable facility to cultivate football skills, similar to what they had accomplished with boxing in the past.

The Astroturf rapidly became the focal point of the town. 24/7, individuals could be observed engaging in football, refining their abilities, and envisioning forthcoming triumph. The football ground was not merely a physical space, but rather a powerful representation of optimism and potential for the aspiring players of Bukom.

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Unfortunately, the happiness was brief. Today, the football pitch that used to be lively and active is now characterized by neglect and deterioration. The previously verdant and vibrant fake grass has now become tattered and deteriorated, exposing the dusty terrain beneath. The field’s protective fence has been torn away, resulting in the accumulation of waste and rubbish on the pitch.

The floodlights, turf, and seats have all deteriorated dramatically, reflecting the terrible status of the once-praised facility. Some of the residents are displeased with the current state of the lawn.

According to Benjamin Amartey Tagoe, a resident of Bukom, the pitch’s degeneration was ascribed to bad contractor work, mismanagement, and the community’s role in its downfall.

“A lot of factors contributed to the deterioration of the pitch. The contractor did a horrible job, and there was mismanagement. Plus, we, the community, also played a role in why the pitch didn’t last,” he said.

However, another neighbor stated his dissatisfaction, “lack of maintenance too counts; the people responsible for the maintenance of the park were not taking good care of it. Boys from Bukom also arguing they should be allowed to do anything they want.”

The Bukom Astroturf is not the only one in tatters; the Kawukudi Astroturf has also seen better days. It was supported by the One Constituency, One Million Dollars program through the Infrastructure For Poverty Eradication Program (IPEP) under the Ministry of Special Development Initiatives.

Unfortunately, areas of the artificial pitch are entirely worn down, placing players who play on the pitch in danger. The stands are in a horrible state. Cattle, seemingly puzzled by the artificial green grass, advance upon the pitch through the ripped fence to graze. The pitch is home to trash stuff.

When the rain comes pouring down, the Astroturf morphs into a sloppy, waterlogged mess. Puddles form on the surface. The once smooth and homogeneous surface now appears battered and torn, with areas of exposed ground peeking through the cracks in the sodden lawn.

As the rain intensifies, the fake grass, once lush and green, begins to show symptoms of distress. The tiny covering of plastic fibers starts to peel away, revealing the underlying earth. With each downpour, the grass folds under the weight of the water, creating uneven spots over the field.

The peeling and folding of the fake grass mimic the folds on a folded piece of paper, only here it’s a monument to the wear and tear imposed by the constant rain.

The combination of waterlogging and peeling grass not only makes playing football difficult but also poses safety dangers for anyone attempting to utilize the field. It’s a disappointing sight for the neighborhood, who had previously anticipated that the astroturf would provide a reliable location for relaxation and sports, only to discover it succumbing to the elements with each new storm.

Tabiru Idrisu, a resident of Kawukudi, expressed his discontent with the existing state of the facility.

“This Astroturf doesn’t benefit us because they didn’t even do it well, as you can see this is not Astroturf, but rather a swimming pool. Last I heard to vice president Bawumia that they are building approximately 150 Astroturf but I don’t know whether this is included because this is not an Astroturf.”

The Awutu Senya Pitch

The Member of Parliament for Awutu Senya East, Hawa Koomson, was excited that the pitch will enable young people to chase their sporting goals.

The Astroturf pitch in Kasoa, formerly a fantastic facility for young athletes, has been replaced by worn-out artificial grass, leaving former players furious. The pitch, handed over in 2021, was created to assist young people’s sporting goals.

Three years down the track, the pitch cannot be recognized. Yards of the artificial grass have entirely worn out. Now, the lovely pitch is reverted to the old “Sakora” pitch.

This has left players who used to play on the pitch feeling sad. A citizen, Kwesi Nuru, who used to play on the Astroturf, lamented poor player performance due to the unavailability of the Astroturf.

“We used to play on the pitch every weekend, and it was awesome. But now that it’s absent, our performance as players has taken a hit,” he said. “It’s really frustrating; we don’t have any football parks nearby, so we have to rent a pitch every time we want to play. The Astroturf used to bring.”

Are Astroturf pitches worth the investment?

The proposal was worth the political buy-in, pushing the Akufo-Addo-led government. From 2017 to 2024, the government’s 2023 performance tracker reveals that 106 pitches have been developed. But are they in decent shape?

When the Government started installing these Astroturfs in 2018, the projected price was $250,000 (Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand US Dollars) for each. By mid-2022, the cost for new Astroturf pitches had grown to $350,000 (Three Hundred and fifty thousand US dollars).

Around the same time, the GNPC Foundation said it had since 2018, funded a total of 32 Astroturf facilities across the country which were at various stages of completion with varying costs ranging from $997,337.00 (nine hundred and ninety-seven thousand, three hundred and thirty-seven) to $2,366,668.00 (two million, three hundred and sixty-six thousand, six hundred and sixty-eight cedis).

The Chief Executive Officer of the Coastal Development Authority, Jerry Ahmed, last year announced the Bukom field would be refurbished and given over to a commercial firm to maintain it.

“We will rather do them and run them at the rate at which you want to pay, and that’s what we are going to do. So, we are going to get a private person to go in, and they’re already on board,” he said.

Robert Coleman, the Chief Executive of Wembley Sports Construction Company, indicated that inadequate management and regular maintenance of Astroturfs can contribute to their degradation.

“If you don’t manage it well and you don’t do regular and formative maintenance, the Astroturf will decay. A perfect example is what we have in Bukom; that Astroturf has not been managed correctly at all. When people fund the construction or the installation of the Astroturf, what I know from the Ghana Gas perspective is that they hand it over to the various assembly so that they would do the management and the maintenance,” he stated.

How could the government invest over $37,100,000 thirty-seven million, one hundred thousand dollars in creating 106 pitches without considering a maintenance plan? 

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