MANAUS, Brazil (AP) — Visibly dry, white stripes across the grass pitch at the Amazonian World Cup stadium have heightened concerns about the playing surface ahead of Saturday's key Group D match between Italy and England.
"Frankly, Manaus is in bad shape," Carlos Botella, head groundsman for the Royal Verd company which is responsible for the turf at Manaus and six other World Cup stadiums, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "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.
Measures to improve the dry, patchy surface were in full swing Wednesday.
"Yesterday we put fertilizer, and we'll increase the fertilizing process with biostimulants and seeds to try to get the most out of the grass," Botella said.
FIFA issued a statement saying its experts were satisfied that the Manaus pitch will be ready for training and matches and that "mitigation procedures" have been in place for three months.
Royal Verd installed the drainage system and planted the grass at the $229 million stadium and has worked with local contractors to maintain the surface.
Botella said preparing the pitch has been difficult due to access issues, recent rain and problems with algae when the grass was laid. The northwest Brazil city is in the heart of the world's biggest rainforest and reachable only by plane or boat.
Continue reading this story on the...