Copa America field at risk 2 months before tournament opener
Two months before the opening of the Copa America in Brazil, a fungus infection has afflicted the field at a stadium that will host three prominent matches.
The problem at Sao Paulo’s Arena Corinthians stems from a monster truck race held there in December, stadium executives say.
A plastic cover placed on the pitch during the event created humid conditions that affected the surface.
Players and coaches have complained since January about the excessive sand and poor grass at the 40,000-seat stadium, which hosted the opening game of the 2014 World Cup, and officials have promised a replacement in time for the Copa America.
Corinthians President Andres Sanchez said the stadium will close after the Sao Paulo state championship final on April 21. Setting down new grass will take one month and Corinthians will not play there again until the Copa America has ended, he said.
“We are not closing because of Copa America, we are closing because of Corinthians,” Sanchez told journalists. “Unfortunately, after the trucks came, it turned bad and we could not recover the pitch. We should have stopped playing here in the beginning of the year. We made a mistake and now we will do what is needed.”
Monster Jam truck race organizers did not reply a request for comment from The Associated Press.
The Arena Corinthians will host Brazil’s third group stage match against Peru on June 22, followed by a quarterfinal that could feature Lionel Messi’s Argentina six days later. The final match will be the third-place playoff on July 6.
Copa America organizers believe Corinthians’ decision will not impact the tournament and will monitor the installation. But if history is anything to go by, they should worry.
Preparations in the stadium for the 2014 World Cup suffered several delays and difficulties, including an accident that killed two workers, and it still wasn’t completely finished for the opening game between Brazil and Croatia.
The Arena Corinthians was not expected to be used during the Copa America. The Palmeiras stadium — Allianz Parque — was initially chosen to host the three matches but a disagreement between tournament organizers and stadium operators led South American soccer body CONMEBOL to announce the change in November.
The Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, which will host the final on July 7, has also had its troubles.
The historic site of two World Cup finals is in the midst of a legal battle between the company that until recently ran its operations, the Rio state government and local clubs Flamengo, Fluminense and Vasco da Gama.
Rio governor Wilson Witzel cancelled the deal with the operators, led by constructor Odebrecht, and offered a new one to Flamengo and Fluminense for the 87,000-seat facility.
The previous operators say they are considering legal action.
Vasco executives said they refuse to play at the Maracana under the new arrangement, which could also lead to unpredictable judicial decisions.
Host Brazil will face Bolivia to open the tournament on June 14 at the Morumbi stadium in Sao Paulo.
Games will also be played in Belo Horizonte’s Mineirao stadium, Porto Alegre’s Arena do Gremio and Salvador’s Arena Fonte Nova. No new construction was needed for the tournament.