The South African under-17 team lost their first-ever match on artificial turf at home when Zimbabwe beat them 2-1 in an international friendly at the FNB Wadley Stadium in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday.
Despite the constant drizzle and slight chill in the air, the residents of Edendale packed the compact stadium and cheered the home team on. South Africa took the lead via a Ntumeleng Ramokone penalty in the 62nd minute.
Ntokoza Tshuma finished off a slick passing move by the visitors in the 78th minute to make the score 1-1 and, with time running out, Brian Katsarume struck late in time added on to give Zimbabwe the victory.
Players from both teams had nothing but praise for the first-ever artificial turf in South Africa and said they preferred it to normal grass pitches.
”It was very slippery because of the rain but I’d rather play on it that on a normal grass field,” said Ajax Cape Town defender Jermaine Bowers.
”It’s flat and even and when you pass the ball it seems much quicker. I prefer it that way,” he explained.
South Africa-born Zimbabwean striker Matthew Rusike concurred with the defender, whose back line he tormented during the match.
”It’s a very nice surface and it helped both sides to play a flowing game. If you make a crap pass it’s not because the pitch is bumpy, it’s because you did it,” he joked.
”This field is level and flat and definitely gives players the advantage to play carpet football,” he said. ”I really enjoyed it and would like to play on this kind of surface again.” — Sapa