Well after all the build-up unfortunately we didn’t get to see a football match in Warsaw this evening. What we did see however was entertaining in its own way. A game called off in a multi-million dollar stadium with a roof as hapless authorities looked on, fans invading the pitch, referees ‘inspecting’ a pitch that was more like a swimming pool by the end of the night. Yes it was quite an evening here in Warsaw.
The day started off in a pretty nondescript way with light rain falling from around mid-day on a typical Northern European autumn (one might say British) day. But as the match time approached the rain started to fall down more heavily to the point where streams of rain were falling from the heavens. I aimed to meet some friends in a bar down-town, excited about the prospect of the match in front of me. As I set off for the bus-stop, dodging puddles and the cars that were driving through them, I thought there was little chance that the match was going to go ahead. The windows of the bus were totally steamed up but what we could see out of the windows seemed like bedlam. Around the stadium there was a blur of flashing lights and people huddled under bus shelters. A brief glance at the twitter feed on my phone told me to my great surprise that the stadium authorities had not put up the roof of the stadium. I relayed this to fellow bus passengers who were as shocked as I was.
I finally got to the bar where my friends were waiting after jumping over some more puddles. We were then met with the prospect of watching the ‘talking heads’ from the Polish TV studio, including Jerzy Dudek, discussing for an hour and a half whether there was going to be a game or not. Of course the whole time it was completely clear that there was no chance that the match was going to go ahead. So we heard talk of the times that Poland had scored against England, interviews with these goal scorers, discussions about the puddles on the pitch, if and when the match would be replayed, tonight, tomorrow or next month and of course discussions about the roof.
Indeed almost every discussion on the television and in the bar came back to the roof. How could the Polish authorities not put the roof up even when it had been raining for the entire day? The answer came back that the match needed to take place under the same atmospheric conditions under which training had occurred. Still it all seemed rather ridiculous. As discussions continued on the television (today? tomorrow? next month? roof?) for what seemed like an eternity, up popped a poor, Polish FA spoke(wo)man. While the whole country watched, she had to somehow explain what had happened, what could happen in the future and why the roof hadn’t been put up. It was easy to feel sorry for this woman, her role being a bit akin to Comical Ali during the Iraq War but without the charisma.
This farce continued until eventually we found out the match was going to be called off, and played tomorrow at 17.00 CET. People in the bar we were in started to drift off home and the bar staff started to put away tables, rather angrily it has to be said. One of the ladies who did so seemed particularly irritated, she must have been cursing the unused rood just as much as the rest of us. So we headed back home across the same bridge with the rain falling as we had done when Poland had been knocked out in June.
But the shame and entertainment didn’t end there. Polish internet news sites were busy as ever relaying tales of national woe regarding the poorly organised roof-fiasco. A Facebook fanpage named ‘Basen Narodowy’ ‘National Swimming Pool’ instead of ‘Stadion Narodowy’ ‘National Stadium’, which contains memes of the flooded stadium, has at the time of writing achieved almost 26,000 fans. The leader of an extremist political party ‘Polish Solidarity’ has called for the dismissal of the Sports Minister due to the poor handling of the match postponement. And the Polish liberal Catholic newspaper ‘Tygodnik Powszechny’ has shared the following picture with a man looking out over the wreckage of the National Stadium bearing the title ‘Mysterious Object from the early 21st century. Purpose unknown.’
Tomorrow at 17 then, the match is planned to go ahead, but with the rain continuing to fall I hope they closed the roof.