When Tijuana’s Luis Chávez struck the ball, you could tell something was wrong. The 22 year old had come on as a sub five minutes prior to getting past an Atlas defender and going in on goalkeeper José Hernández with an eye for getting an insurance goal to pad Xolos’ tenuous 1-0 lead.
As Chávez cut in he planted his left foot and swung his right at the ball, but the grass under his plant foot gave way. Chávez ankle could be seen on the replay turning at a grotesque, unnatural angle as his shot went straight into Hernández’ torso. Seven minutes into his shift Chávez would need to be subbed out, his left ankle swollen to the size of his knee.
It has been rainy in Mexico this year, and the grass in the stadiums has been taking a beating. The pitch at Estadio Jalisco was a mess, with large divots appearing even before the start of the Atlas-Xolos game.
It has been raining all week, plus the U20 game was played a few hours ago.— Paradero Boys (@ParaderoBoys) September 16, 2018
It wasnt much different however in Nuevo León at Estadio BBVA when Monterrey hosted Chivas. The field was pockmarked and slick thanks to the rains that have swept through the Monterrey region. That game was marred by injuries to Avilés Hurtado in the eighth minute and to his replacement Jonathan Urretaviscaya in the 36th minute.
The pitch at the most iconic stadium in the nation is also in disrepair. The hallowed surface of Estadio Azteca is also worn down thanks to a combination of the weather and being used every weekend, alternating between Cruz Azul and Club América.
To be fair, keeping the pitch perfect in a professional sports venue is a difficult task. The weather in Mexico has been a factor, with the rainy season in most of Mexico extending from June into September. While climate change may be exacerbating this, it’s not a new issue and should not be a surprise to those who are entrusted with making sure the pitches are in playable condition.
Quite simply, it’s an issue of player safety. Chávez is a promising midfielder in Xolos’ system. Hurtado and Urretaviscaya have featured for the Colombia and Uruguay National teams respectively, with Urretaviscaya playing in La Celeste’s friendly against Mexico last week. Players who play at this level shouldn’t have to fear an injury because of the condition of the turf.
At some point, someone will hopefully have the wherewithal to step in and postpone games where the pitch presents a player safety issue. Whether it’s the league mandating that matches can be postponed if it’s deemed unsafe to play or teams stepping up efforts to overhaul the stadiums to drain better, something has to be done before more players suffer potentially serious but completely preventable injuries.
Urretaviscaya has not practiced for Rayados in the week leading up to the Clásico Regiomontana against arch-rivals Tigres, and Hurtado will miss the next few weeks with a “fibrillar rupture in the left hamstring” according to a report from Televisa. And while there’s no official word on Chávez, he is ruled out for Saturday’s match against Pachuca in Tijuana, where the artificial turf will be unlikely to show signs of weather-related damage.