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The Stade de France will host the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid on Saturday (9:00 p.m.). An event that required the complete change of the grass at the beginning of the week, after a series of concerts. In record time. explanations.
Sadio Mané and Karim Benzema will enjoy totally new terrain for their clash at the top. The Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid will take place on Saturday at the Stade de France (9:00 p.m.). On a completely changed lawn. After a series of concerts, the lawn of the Dionysian venue was no longer fit to host a high-level football match. On Saturday night, Nicolas Sirkis and the Indochine group closed the series of events celebrating their forty years on stage with an XXL show. For the occasion, the attendance record of the Stade de France was broken, with 97,000 spectators. To catch up with delays related to the Covid-19 pandemic and postponed shows, the Blues’ lair is facing a bottleneck of arts events.
Three months ago, after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, France offered its large stadium to host the Champions League final, originally scheduled for Saint Petersburg. The date was free at the Stade de France, but this great unforeseen event seriously complicated things in terms of logistics. Those responsible for the Stade de France consortium had already planned to change the pitch for the Top 14 final, scheduled for June 24. This left a propitious time for the organization. But with the addition of the C1 final, they only had 48 hours to make this change.
“A real logistical challenge”
“It had never been done in such a short time,” confesses Loïc Duroselle, director of programming and institutional relations at the Stade de France. It is a real logistical challenge. UEFA is attentive, it follows this very closely. She is aware of the difficulties that this represents in terms of deadlines, but we are in a very high competition and the normal thing is to give a tone at the height of the event. Despite the conditions, the result must be perfect.”
To make sure, the organizers have worked hard. The turf grew on a turf farm located north of Barcelona, Spain. Five hundred rolls of grass were transported by twenty-four refrigerated trucks to Saint-Denis. All in two days. The grass was taken at 24 degrees in Spain, then kept at 2 degrees throughout the trip, so that it would not fall victim to diseases. With an arrival at the Stade de France at 14 degrees, the ideal temperature to lower it.
Thirty people mobilized
Once landed, the rolls were placed on the ground of the stadium, on which we could still see the synthetic base that is usually planted in August. The work started at 2 am, Monday through Tuesday nights and was to finish Tuesday through Wednesday nights. Around thirty people mobilized on site to meet these tight deadlines.
On the giant screens of the stadium, the videos broadcast the best moments of this C1 season, including Karim Benzema’s goal against PSG in the second leg of the round of 16. “I can’t take it anymore, I almost stopped seeing it on screen,” joked a PSG fan outfielder, between two poses of curlers. Then it was necessary to draw the lines, place the goals and order everything. All to be available for Liverpool and Real training, scheduled for Friday, on the eve of the final.
“Both teams will have no excuse”
“It’s a big challenge, with added pressure, but our team has been prepared for it,” said Andrew Cole, technical director of the iTurf company, which manages the pitch at the Stade de France. The turf will meet international standards for the final. “We will do all the necessary tests for that. Both teams will have no excuse to be at their best, with optimal playing conditions.”
However, these reduced terms have increased the bill. The consortium evokes a range between 300,000 and 500,000 euros (the amount is rather in the upper part of this range). An additional cost fully covered by UEFA. After the Top 14 final, the grass will be removed again and it will be moved to the Le Mans stadium (belonging to the Vinci group, manager of the Stade de France). In order to continue to be used for several more months.