Belgian pitch heads to the World Cup

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One country that didn't qualify for this year's World Cup is Belgium. The national team, known as the Red Devils, won't be making the trip to South Africa. But just because the Belgians aren't on the field doesn't mean they aren't in the field. Our technology correspondent Clark Boyd sent in this report.

MARCO WERMAN: One country that didn't qualify for this year's World Cup is Belgium. The national team known as the Red Devils won't be making the trip to South Africa. But just because Belgium isn't taking to the field doesn't mean they aren't on the turf. Our technology correspondent Clark Boyd explains.

CLARK BOYD: The town of Dendermonde is about a half hour train ride north of the Belgian capital Brussels. Historically, this part of Flanders known for its textiles. And at a company called Desso, the stitching machines are still going strong. But here at Desso they're not stitching thread. These machines are making plastic fibers for artificial turf. Two World Cups venues, Nelspruit and Polokwane stadiums will feature Desso's Grassmaster system. But if you're thinking ugh, astro turf at the World Cup? Think again.

MARC VERCAMMEN: To be clear, Desso Grassmaster is 100% natural turf.

BOYD: Marc Vercammen is General Manager at Desso Sports Systems.

VERCAMMEN: What we do is we inject about 20 million synthetic turf fibers into the prepared soil and the natural turf roots will actually intertwine with these injected synthetic turf.

BOYD: The synthetic fibers, in other words, are mostly under the surface anchoring the natural grass roots. So the field is cut and watered and cared for like grass because what's above ground is grass. Vercammen says it creates a field that's stable and that drains easily. Desso had been in negotiations with FIFA and World Cup officials for a number of years before the World Cup in South Africa. There are other grass reinforcement systems out there; Desso didn't manage to get a contract. But, Vercammen says, that changed when FIFA decided that some of the fields weren't up to snuff.

VERCAMMEN: Both stadiums that we've now done, Nelspruit and Polokwane, they've tried other systems before; natural combinations with different reinforcement systems or no reinforcement systems. And then they failed the FIFA tests a couple of months ago.

BOYD: So Desso was brought in to help. One of the biggest challenges, as always, was choosing the right kind of grass seed to sow, to match the local climate and conditions. Desso's Yves de Cocker remembers some protracted discussions with South African stadium officials.

YVES DE COCKER: They were pretty confident about their system and they should be because it has proven its possibilities over the last years, but this is a World Cup, this is different. You cannot afford to actually have something less than best. But we managed to sit around the table and find the best grass mix.

BOYD: In the end, they decided to go with a rye grass mix. That's the same kind of grass that the Denver Broncos use with their Desso Grassmaster system. Ross Kurcab is Head Turf Manager at Invesco Field at Mile High. He says that the Desso system stands up to more than just the hundreds of grass punishing runs up the middle of the field each season.

ROSS KURCAB: We have a full adult horse and rider; Thunder the Broncos' team mascot, runs up and down the field after the Broncos score. And even that fool horse can't dig a deep divot out with this system, that's one of the beauties of it.

BOYD: The field at Polokwane gets its first test on Sunday when Algeria meets Slovenia. Three days later Nelspruit plays host to Honduras and Chile. I asked Yves de Cocker whether having Desso's turf system in place was any consolation for the Belgian team not qualifying for World Cup 2010.

DE COCKER: It's a start, isn't it? I mean, wait in four years time Belgian players will be playing on Belgian grass in Brazil. Three B's.

BOYD: Already angling, it would seem, for both his country and his turf in the next World Cup. For The World, this is Clark Boyd, Dendermonde, Belgium.

WERMAN: What is this mix of synthetic and real grass look like you ask? Well you can see pictures of Desso's Grassmaster system and a video of how it was installed in South Africa at the world dot org.