That photo up there is from Arena Amazonia in Manaus. The turf is patchy, sandy, and as acknowledged by the groundskeeper, in no way ready to host soccer, let alone a World Cup match. Too bad, because the crucial opener between England and Italy is on Saturday.
"Frankly, Manaus is in bad shape," said Carlos Botella, head groundsman. "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."
Botella blames the isolation of Manaus hundreds of miles from any other World Cup stadium and largely inaccessible by road. "All the machinery and materials had to be brought by ship," he said. "There's no fertilizer, no seeds. Everything has been complicated."
Manaus's location should make for some miserable soccer no matter the pitch. The temperature for Saturday's match is expected to be around 90, with the humidity appropriately oppressive for the middle of the fucking rainforest. The weather is believed to be a contributing factor in the sorry state of the grass.
From the beginning, critics said there was no need for a $229 million, 46,000-seat stadium in a city that doesn't have a club in Brazil's top three divisions. The deaths of three construction workers didn't help matters either. But no one expected that things might still be so bleak days before go time.
According to witnesses who have been inside the stadium this week, the ground is fully functional but not completely finished.
In and around the changing rooms, naked power cables could be seen dangling from the walls. According to reports, outside the stadium workers were still applying a final coat of asphalt, while several security doors could be seen in their packaging, still waiting to be fitted.
England is sending a staffer to inspect the stadium tomorrow, with a training session to be held on Friday. Arena Amazonia is set to host four matches during the tournament, including USA vs. Portugal on June 22.
Photo By Themba Hadebe/AP