Albertini dismisses Manaus pitch fears

Demetrio Albertini, the head of the Italian delegation in Brazil, says he is not concerned by negative reports on the state of the pitch in Manaus, where Italy and England meet on Saturday.

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Former AC Milan midfielder Albertini has sent two delegation members to take a closer look at the state of the turf, and apparent lack thereof in places, but they have yet to report back to him after getting stuck in a strike at Rio de Janeiro airport.

Nevertheless, he says Italy will be ready, no matter what conditions they are faced with. The Squadra Azzurra fly north on Friday.

"We've heard that a bit of the grass has been burnt due to the heat," Albertini told reporters at Italy's World Cup base of Mangaratiba.

"But we're not worried about the state of the pitch -- we'll be training on it as normal. In any case, no matter what happens, we will not be changing any of our original plans."

While Albertini may not be all that concerned about the conditions in the heart of the Amazon rain forest, the world players' union FIFPro, who have seen the surface close up, says it is nothing short of scandalous to expect top-level football to be played on it.

"The players deserve a quality playing surface and conditions that reflect what is meant to be the world's premier football event," a FIFPro statement is quoted by Reuters as saying.

"This is simply not the case in Manaus. Nobody wants to see the players and the spectacle in general suffer. Putting a player in harm's way is shockingly irresponsible and not how the game ought to be run."

The man responsible for what seems anything but a lush green baize admitted the pitch was "in bad shape" when interviewed by Associated Press earlier in the week.

"We've started to implement an emergency plan 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," said Carlos Botella. He should have turned to a British groundsman a long time ago, according to the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG).

They claim their expertise could have saved FIFA from what could be an embarrassment when the world's attention focuses on the Arena da Amazonia this Saturday.

"The skill of UK groundsmen is acknowledged the world over," said an IOG statement. "Clubs like Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain employ British groundsmen and throughout professional sports turf venues in the UK, we enjoy excellent playing facilities.

"For such a prestigious event as the World Cup, just as the very best players compete you also need the very best expertise available to ensure facilities are at their optimum level. The playing surface should be the centrepiece from which everything else is built."

The IOG added that there "really is no excuse for any stadium" not to present a pitch in perfect condition, given the technology available. "Therefore, you have to question at a local level the decision-making process leading up to the tournament."

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