FIFA is starting a new round of inspections at World Cup stadiums in Brazil.
Ordinarily, at this stage in the World Cup cycle, the construction work would be done and dusted, the world’s press would touring and admiring the pristine, newly-completed venues, and there would be time for a brief moment of reflection – the metaphorical calm before the storm.
However in Brazil, where the World Cup will kick off in just 84 days away, host cities are still scrambling around in a bid to to be ready for the tournament. All under the watchful and increasingly fretful gaze of anxious FIFA officials.
Inspections in six stadiums began on Thursday and FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke is expected in Rio de Janeiro next week for a series of meetings.
Technical teams visited the Itaquerão Stadium in São Paulo on Thursday and will move on to Porto Alegre, Manaus, Natal, Cuiabá and Curitiba in the coming days.
“This inspection tour will be fundamental to consolidate operational plans and for each area to confirm the operations they have planned over the last few years,” said Tiago Pães, the operations manager for stadiums at the local organizing committee.
FIFA already knows that at least two stadiums won’t be ready until weeks before the tournament starts. The Itaquerão Stadium in São Paulo will be completed in mid-May, along with the Arena da Baixada in the southern city of Curitiba. Fingers crossed for both venues.
Meanwhile, in one of the stadiums that has been completed, there is concern abut the state of the pitch.
Use of fertiliser on the new playing surface at the Arena da Amazônia in Manaus, means that sections of undernourished grass are now undergoing repairs.
The region’s high temperatures and humid conditions have posed serious challenges to the playing surface. Sections appear dry while two patches in one of the penalty areas contain no grass at all.
It’s amazing that no one thought about the potential problems when they decided to award matches to a clearing in the middle of the equatorial jungle. although, this being brazil, perhaps not.
The World Cup stadium in Manaus, like the rest of the country, is in a race against time to get the pitch ready before England play the Italy on 14 June.
Although, if the playing surface does resemble cabbage patch, you will hear few complaints from England coach Roy Hodgson.