'Complete disaster' as England game is abandoned is another blow for the international game

 

The National Stadium in Warsaw is an impressive sight, overlooking the river Wisla from the east shore and at night the red and white panels that adorn its sides are lit up in a random sequence, a tribute to a modern, capable Poland.

Last night it was the scene of an utter shambles and an embarrassment to that same modern Poland that had successfully co-hosted a European Championship with Ukraine this summer. The Polish crowd chanted "Thieves, thieves" in reference to the Polish Football Association (PZPN) and jeered when the Italian referee tried forlornly to test the ball out on the waterlogged surface.

Just imagine for a moment the utter scorn and fury that would be visited on the heads of the English Football Association if a similar saga took place at Wembley Stadium. Even Roy Hodgson, a man who is unfailingly polite in his dealings with foreign opposition, described the events of last night as a "complete disaster" for the PZPN.

It is unlikely that anyone will put their hands up and admit to being culpable but the suggestion that the roof was left open on the orders of the Poland coach, Waldemar Fornalik, on the basis that the bad conditions would suit his team does not reflect at all well on him or the Polish football authorities.

In Warsaw, the problems with the pitch have been longstanding at the stadium which was built for Euro 2012. There has been no permanent playing surface and it was re-laid before Friday's friendly against South Africa. The last major event at the stadium before then was a Coldplay concert in September. The depth of the playing surface is 30cm lower than it was in Euro 2012 which has caused problems with drainage.

As for the roof on the stadium, it has a steel frame that supports tarpaulin sections that are extended and retracted. It was still raining last night with the stadium authorities refusing to close it on the basis that they could invalidate the guarantee if they did so. There are other stadium roof designs that can be closed in a matter of minutes, in spite of the weather conditions.

There was a comic element to last night: the rain, the open roof and the man in charge of the roof who would simply not close it. But there was also a real sadness that a national football association cannot even stage a match, between two significant European football nations.

There will be many Premier League clubs furious that their players will now be returning to their clubs later than expected. The goodwill that international football increasingly needs to survive, especially in Europe where the clubs now call the shots, has been eroded a little more. What have England done in the last five days? Played a team of no-hopers at Wembley and been stuck in Poland a day late.

This kind of farce does no one any favours, least of all Uefa and Fifa. They cannot be held responsible for the man who controlled the roof but they will have to acknowledge that this has been a bad few days for international football.

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