First to arrive at the training ground were Gabon who arrived last Tuesday for a week-and-a-half of honing their skills before their first match against Switzerland at St James’ Park last Thursday. It was the first time the men’s football team had ever competed in the games.
Japan were at the training ground practising their ball skills on Friday, while Spain – who made a shock exit from the competition after they were beaten by Honduras yesterday (Sunday) – made use of the top-class facilities on Saturday. Brazil, the best international team ever, are expected to arrive for training tomorrow (Tuesday).
Other teams who have been, or will be training at Cochrane Park during the Olympic football completion are Mexico, South Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Honduras and women’s squads from Sweden, Canada, France and Columbia.
Cochrane Park has undergone a £500,000 facelift to ensure the four pitches – which are each exactly the same size as the pitch at St James’ Park – are in perfect condition. New drainage and irrigation systems were installed last year and the dressing rooms were redecorated and new showers installed. A medical room and an anti-doping room have also been installed.
Ground staff have been working round the clock to ensure the pitches are ready in time – and that the grass is at the regulation length of 26mm.
Newcastle University Director of Sport Colin Blackburn said: “I am absolutely thrilled that after years of preparation we’ve finally got Olympic athletes training at the University. I can’t wait to see some of the world’s best players and the stars of tomorrow.
“I have to say thank you to our grounds staff who have done an absolutely amazing job keeping the pitches in such good condition. They haven’t had an easy time of it with the rain we’ve been having – including the’ Toon Monsoon’ - but they have still got everything ready in time.”
Photograph of Spain training at Cochrane Park by North News and Pictures
published on: 30th July 2012