Warsaw: Poland and England were set to play their rain-hit World Cup qualifier on Wednesday, amid anger from fans, criticism of the timing of the rescheduled fixture and questions about why the stadium roof was not shut.
The Group H game in Warsaw has been rescheduled for 5:00 pm (1500 GMT), a day after the tie at the 58,000-capacity Kazimieriz Gorski Stadium was called off when torrential rain flooded the pitch at the state-of-the-art venue.
“I’m not happy about this. But what can you do?” said 42-year-old Poland supporter Krzysztof Kujawa, who on Tuesday had driven four hours or 255 kilometres (158 miles) from the northern city of Bydgoszczor with friends, only to have to go home again.
Fans in the stadium had been kept waiting for a stadium announcement that came after 10:00 pm (2000 GMT), an hour after the planned kick-off, while officials had already been informed.
FIFA delegate Danijel Jost called the match off after a string of inspections by Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi.
“The feeling was not of anger but of bemusement and no-one knew what was going on, but I include the Poland fans in that as well,” England fans’ spokesman Mark Perryman told Britain’s domestic Press Association news agency.
But amid concern that many visiting fans would miss the fixture, he said he expected up to two-thirds of the 2,500 England supporters to attend on Wednesday, given that many had booked a few days’ break in Poland around the original game.
FIFA”s Jost settled in favour of England following wrangling over the timing, with England wanting Wednesday and Poland seeking to shift the game to November.
“We’re already here. The flight can be put back 24 hours and, likewise, our fixture programme is always full for the next 12 months,” said Adrian Bevington, communications chief of England’s Football Association.
Poland’s staff, meanwhile, scrambled to reorganise the return of individual players to foreign clubs.
“We’ve had much more to do than England, who are playing away and going home as a group,” said Poland team spokesman Tomasz Rzasa.
The Warsaw stadium — named after the iconic Poland manager who famously denied England a berth at the 1974 World Cup — was purpose-built for Euro 2012 which Poland hosted in June with neighbours Ukraine and has a retractable roof.
The Polish football association played down suggestions that the Poles were at fault for not closing the roof on Tuesday, claiming organisers could not take a unilateral decision.
They require a FIFA green light, because an open or closed roof could be considered as giving a team an advantage in certain weather conditions.
Pressed over an apparent lack of contingency, Polish FA spokeswoman Agnieszka Olejkowska said: “The forecast that we were given was light showers for two hours.
“Before the match, steps were taken to close the roof but in the weather conditions we had, it was not possible for technical reasons.”
Ironically, the rain eased sufficiently on Tuesday for the roof to be shut by 11:00 pm (2100 GMT).
With the sun shining on Wednesday, it was opened again and it was unclear whether it needed to be closed for the match. Ground staff were working to dry the pitch.
Veteran England manager Roy Hodgson said it was not the first time he had faced weather woes.
“When I was at Malmo we had a game with Ajax postponed at the last minute because of a snow storm and we had to play it a few days later,” he said.