Plumbing the depths of flood and blunder in Warsaw
22:37 GMT, 16 October 2012
This is what happens when you let every good plumber leave the country.
No doubt they were ringing around desperately at the National Stadium in Warsaw on Tuesday night.
'Of course, Aleksy! Why didn't I think of him before No, not that Aleksy. Aleksy Pawinski. No, he's good. Yes, you do remember him. Twenty four hour service, no job too large or small. Little yellow van. He knew something about drainage. Give him a call.'
Call a plumber: Hodgson goes for a splash about before the scheduled kick-off
'Hello, Aleksy Aleksy, is that you It's Mikolaj. Mikolaj Wrobleski. Yes, it has been a long time. No, she's fine mate. Yes we must. It would be nice to catch up. Look, Aleksy, we're in a bit of bother at the football here.
'That's right, the National Stadium. Water everywhere, mate. Yes, it did have a roof. Well, it's a long story.
'So, anyway, we were wondering if you could pop over, have a look at the pitch, maybe give us a bit of advi…Sorry Hackney Where's Hackney Oh, I see. No, don’t worry about it, mate, Friday's no good.
'Look Aleksy, do you know anybody. Who Gregorz Of course, Gregorz. Why didn’t I think of him before No, don’t mention it. You've been very helpful. I’ll try Gregorz.
'Gregorz, hello mate, it’s Mikolaj. Wrobleski. From Warsaw, that's right. Oh, you know, same old, same old. Look, Gregorz, I was wondering if you…Plaistow Where the bloody hell is Plaistow'
They didn't even have men with forks.
You always get a couple of poor sods with forks at times like this. Have
a stab at the turf, make a few holes, look busy for the sodden masses.
Splish splash: One Poland fans makes the most of the inclement weather
Maybe they're just more realistic in Poland. Not as interested in public relations. No point getting people's hopes up unnecessarily. No point trying to make it look better.
As the rain beat down and the puddles grew, the pitch lay drenched, abandoned by humanity.
Grim-faced spectators, hangovers kicking in from pre-match merriment, stared forlornly at the empty expanse of what once was a football field, now a prototype paddy field.
The gentleman in charge of the public address system, meanwhile, exercised a keen sense of irony. Beautiful Day followed by Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall. At least somebody was having fun.
As did a pair of pitch invaders. They leapt the three small barriers at what would have been 35 minutes into the first half had the game played and had a little paddle, pursued by a quarter of high-visibility bibbed stewards.
Their splashing footsteps only highlighted the inevitability of postponement. The first change of direction resulted in a fall, as water lapped over shoes in goalmouths and beyond.
The idea that a legitimate sporting
contest could take place in these conditions was simply preposterous. It
was foolish to even still be sitting here. This game was dead in the
Soak it up: One steward takes a tumble trying to stop a pitch invader as fans watch on
And it was a pity. For, deep down, let's be honest, who wouldn't have loved to have seen it played
Forget fairness for a moment. Forget purity. Forget the beautiful game and the fact it would have turned the outcome into a lottery, removing the elements of technical excellence, ability and planning that decide international football matches.
Christ, it would have been fun.
Come on, admit it. We’ve all seen at least one match that should never have been played. Flooded, frozen, knee deep in mud or with the ball bouncing 20 feet from the goal kicks. Blinding, wasn't it One of the best matches you’ve ever seen.
You can watch 1,000 games where the ball runs true and the conditions favour the most talented individuals and a lot of the action looks exactly the same.
Once in a while, isn't it good to
have the whole thing turned into a crap shoot Have we really forgotten
how to enjoy the odd 90 minutes of mayhem Nobody would expect Roy
Hodgson to agree. He wants a match decided on merit and understandably
The moment he was alerted to the
problem by Gary Neville, who was stomping around kicking puddles as if
taking the incoming storm clouds personally, it was obvious England’s
manager was angling to get the game called off.
Long way home: It was a fruitless trip for many England fans
He spoke to the referee, he spoke to various FIFA and UEFA bods, he even tried to engage the Polish team in the futility of it all as they went out to warm up, but ultimately no lobbying was needed.
The second inspection, at 9.45pm local time, lasted barely a minute. There have been courses on Total Wipeout containing fewer water features than the pitch in Warsaw by this time.
So when the game was called off, it was to the surprise of none. We reconvene at 5pm local time today, by which time the Polish hope to have a handyman on site in case of any unforeseen leaks or crises.
There’s a fella called Tomasz coming from Shepherd’s Bush, apparently.