Jonathan Calderwood, the man responsible for Paris Saint-Germain’s incredible pitch takes us through his view of the 2018/2019 season and a busy summer ahead at the Parc des Princes!
Jonathan, how has the Parc des Princes been this season?
The biggest challenge for me since moving from the UK, where I worked for my entire career, to here in Paris, is the high temperatures in summer. I really wasn’t expecting that. I knew it was warmer here in France than in England, but I wasn’t expecting this extreme heat in summer. People might not know this, but our biggest challenge here at the Parc des Princes is that every year, at the end of the season, we remove all the grass from the pitch and grow a new pitch from seed and normally we have seven or eight weeks to grow the new pitch. But over the last few years, the very high temperatures in Paris, and especially inside the Parc des Princes, have made this very difficult and maybe the pitch hasn’t been perfect for the first two or three home games of the season, but once we got into September, the pitch was perfect and we’ve had a very good season and I was very happy with the pitch we produced this year.
This summer you also have to keep the Parc ready for the FIFA Women’s World Cup…
Normally at this time of the year we would be stripping the grass off the pitch and reseeding for the start of the PSG season, but we have been delayed because of the Women’s World Cup and obviously it’s a great tournament to be involved in and a great experience for me and the team, but it changes little in terms of the actual work and it’s just as if we were continue through the summer working for PSG, maintain the highest level, it doesn’t matter if we are preparing for the PSG first team of the Women’s team or the U8s or U7s, we always prepare the pitch the same way. All it leans is we have a longer season than usual and a shorter window to turn things around and we’ll only have five weeks to grow the new pitch and that’s a huge challenge for myself and the team.
How are you and your team preparing for the World Cup?
The Women’s World Cup will be very intensive with seven matches here in three weeks plus training sessions. France play the first match of the tournament here against Korea Republic, which also means the opening ceremony and all the rehearsals that go with it, so we might have three or four run throughs on the pitch before the big night. The week leading up to the first match is a huge challenge with the opening ceremony, the children carrying the flags, the referees testing the VAR as well… The whole three weeks are a huge challenge, but we’re confident we’ll have a fantastic pitch for the whole tournament.
And then you can take a rest?
The last World Cup match at the Parc will be the quarter-final on Friday 28 June and the next day, the Saturday, we will completely strip away all the grass, reseed it from scratch and we’ll have just five weeks to get it ready for the start of the season, instead of the normal eight weeks. Hopefully the weather will be on our side, but I know it’s going to take all my experience and knowledge to get the pitch ready for next season. We haven’t got any choice. We have to be ready.
And at the same time you are preparing for the Asia Tour…
People think I work here at the Parc des Princes, but we also look after the Ooredoo Training Centre, the Youth Academy pitches, there’s the new training centre coming in Poissy and I am also looking after the pitches in China that we’ll be using during the pre-season Asia Tour. In the past I was in New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Miami, Singapore and now China this year. I visited four weeks ago to look at the potential training venues, we picked a venue on the quality of the pitch and now I have to put a program in place to maintain the pitch at the highest standard between now and July when the team arrives. China is a long way away, a different culture, different language and different weather conditions too, so this is another huge challenge this summer as well. It really is a huge summer for me and my team.