- POSTED: 01 Oct 2013 13:46
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A burst underground pipe -- not heavy rain or an intense fixture schedule -- has been fingered as the main culprit for wrecking a Hong Kong pitch that played host to some of the Premier League's biggest names.
HONG KONG: A burst underground pipe -- not heavy rain or an intense fixture schedule -- has been fingered as the main culprit for wrecking a Hong Kong pitch that played host to some of the Premier League's biggest names.
Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland featured in the Barclays Asia Trophy played on a swampy Hong Kong Stadium pitch in July before Manchester United arrived to play local club Kitchee.
Authorities discovered the problem just days before the pre-season tournament began, the South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday. Significant areas of the pitch were devoid of grass and days of heavy rain made the quagmire even worse.
At least two players -- Jan Vertonghen of Spurs and Matija Nastasic of Manchester City -- suffered injuries.
"A pipe from the underground sprinkling system had burst. Unfortunately, this was right under the centre circle and no one knew about it for a long time," Hong Kong Football Association chairman Brian Leung told the SCMP.
"Every time they turned on the sprinklers, water was gushing out from the broken area, saturating the ground underneath."
"The excuse that the Hong Kong Stadium pitch couldn't handle the frequency of matches was a complete red herring," HKFA chief executive Mark Sutcliffe told the SCMP, adding that the volume of rain was "a contributory factor only".
The original designer of the pitch was from the Hong Kong Jockey Club and had used the profile for a racetrack, installing irrigation pipes under the playing area instead of the surroundings, the SCMP said, citing a source.
Spurs manger Andre Villas-Boas reacted angrily after seeing defender Vertonghen pick up an ankle injury while Paolo Di Canio, the then-manager of Sunderland, who has since been sacked, branded the surface "a killer pitch".
"We're not hiding from the fact that the pitch has been very difficult and we will have to look at the criteria for where we take this next time." Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore told British media following the tournament.
Hong Kong Stadium also hosted a match between the British and Irish Lions and the Barbarians in June and is the venue for the annual Hong Kong Rugby Sevens tournament.
The pitch was closed for 53 days during which emergency repairs and maintenance were carried out, the SCMP report said.