The head groundswoman at National Stadium

Written by:

A woman calls the shots in a sport that many men are crazy about, when it comes to the pitch at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

Fadzlina A. Azis is the boss of the “turf” at the National Stadium.

Interestingly, the horticulturist is the head groundswoman at National Stadium, doing what has been seen as traditionally a man’s role. And Fadzlina has earned the post on merit as she is known to be meticulous and dedicated.

Malaysia Stadium Corporation chief executive officer Nik Razeen Adam Daud has put his faith in Fadzlina’s ability, saying that “women pay meticulous attention to detail, it comes naturally for them.”

As football becomes increasingly professional in Malaysia with big money pumped into the sport, the science of greenkeeping has become serious business with the reputation of clubs, states and even the national body, the FA of Malaysia, on the line.

Inevitably, a poorly kept pitch, which affects the flow of a football game, is almost certain to draw criticism. And that will hurt the image of the M-League.

Fadzlina A. Azis is the boss of the “turf” at the National Stadium. – NSTP/NUR ADIBAH AHMAD IZAM

Fadzlina, a graduate of Universiti Putra Malaysia, has been diligently maintaining the turf at Bukit Jalil since 2015. She leads a team of seven ground staff, most of whom have similar educational background and expertise.

And the 32-year-old is quick to uproot any misconception that groundsmen or groundswomen are basically common gardeners. No, they are not your garden-variety workers.

“It’s undeniable that when you mention the word ‘groundsmen’, most would think they are the people who cut the grass or do the weeding,” said Fadzlina.

“The truth is that (weeding, cutting) is only a tiny part of the job. It is a very technical job because there are a lot of variables involved.

“There are numerous requirements you have to meet to have your pitch meeting Fifa (world football body) standards.

“For example, we have to use a certain standard of soil, while our sand has to be between 10 and 12 mesh. (Mesh is a measurement of particle-size often used in determining the particle-size distribution of a granular material).

“Fertilisation is also very important. The ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the base elements in fertilisation, must also be accurate to ensure we achieve our target because we have different requirements at different times.

“There are some instances we would want to strengthen the roots while there are other times we may want to increase the density of the grass.

“Grass, however, is a living thing and it does not always respond according to plan all the time. This is where experience is very important as we must adapt to the situation at hand.

“Scheduling is also very important because we always have to take the unpredictable weather into consideration.

“A lot of people think it only takes two or three days for us to prepare the pitch for a game.

“But it actually takes a month for it to be in optimal condition, though this also depends on the condition of the pitch at the start of the preparation phase.”

Fadzlina, who is answerable to her superiors if anything untoward happens to the pitch, added that the job can both be very demanding and also demoralising.

“It is very rewarding when we are able to bring the pitch to optimal condition and the players, coaches and match commissioner praise the pitch.

“When you see the game flowing and injuries are minimised. it feels as if we have won a gold medal,” quipped Fadzlina.

There are numerous requirements to have the pitch meet Fifa standards as the condition of the playing surface affects the flow of a game. PIC BY AZIAH AZMEE

“But it can also be very demoralising when people, who do not understand the workflow involved in maintaining a pitch, criticise it when in actual fact the pitch had already met the required standards and is in good condition.

“We have to be professional when dealing with such situations.”

Source, Images & More: