Players' Union Says Stadium Grass Isn't Fit for World Cup Play

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The grass in one of the World Cup stadiums set to host a high-profile match on Saturday is in awful shape and not suitable to play on, according to a new statement from the international players' union.

Pretty much everyone agrees that the pitch inside Arena Amazonia in the city of Manaus is terrible. The Fédération Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels, or FIFPro for short, which is the international footballers players' union, issued a statement Friday condemning the quality of the pitch. "The players deserve a quality playing surface," FIFPro's statement reads. "This isn't the case in Manaus." Images of the turf taken this week have shown yellow grass and lines running across the field. The ground near one of the nets is particularly dry and patchy.

Italy and England square off at Manaus on Saturday, in what will be the biggest match for both squads in the group play round. As two of the strongest teams in Group D, the winner will have the best chance of advancing; the loser will have to fight for their life against a tough Uruguay squad and Costa Rica. The weather Saturday likely won't help either; it's going to be hot and humid. 

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And the groundskeepers agree, Manaus won't be adequate playing shape come Saturday. “Frankly, Manaus is in bad shape,” Carlos Botella, the head groundskeeper responsible for all six World Cup stadiums, told the Associated Press. “We’ve started to implement an emergency plan to try to save the field and improve it as much as possible, but I don’t think it’ll be in good condition by the weekend." He added that emergency measures are being put in place to try and get the most out of the pitch.

Botella explained that Manaus' remote location contributed to the problems. “The maintenance has been complicated in Manaus. There are no roads, all the machinery and ­materials had to be brought by ship,” he told the AP. “There’s no fertiliser, no seeds. Every­thing has been complicated.”

FIFA doesn't seem to be too worried though. The governing body acknowledged the pitch was receiving treatment ahead of Saturday's match, but would not entertain questions about the pitch's questionable quality. “Pitch experts from FIFA and the local organising committee are satisfied the pitch will be ready for training and the matches, and have been based in Manaus to ensure that all proper procedures are in place," they said in a statement. Hmm, like all FIFA dealings, this seems legit. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.