It's a Wash Out!

If you thought a British summer was bad, spare a thought for England U21 men who endured an unusual finish to their EuroHockey Junior Nations Championship match against Belgium on Wednesday.

Following 16 hours of constant rain in Poland, the team, who have progressed to the European semi finals for the first time since 2004, were forced to take part in a spot of aerial tennis with their Belgian counterparts when the pitch became waterlogged and no decision to abandon was forthcoming.

The terrific efforts of the ground staff and organisers to prepare the pitch allowed England and Belgium to take to the field in the Pool A decider.  A tricky first half ended 1-1 but as the rain grew heavier large puddles began to appear across the pitch in Siemianowice Śląskie.  The second half got underway on time but with the turf becoming waterlogged, the ball pace slowed considerably, preventing players from playing passes, shooting or crossing.  England lost three more goals early in the half but shortly after scoring their second the game came to a temporary stop. 

“After second goal for England the game was stopped for 10 minutes due to ponds of the pitch.”
Excerpt from report on the Official Tournament Website

When Jon Kinder smashed a cross towards the circle and it squelched just a metre from his stick umpire Martin Madden decided he had seen enough.  Citing conditions being a danger to the players, he blew the match to a stop and there followed a consultation between the umpires, team management and technical officials as they awaited a decision by the Tournament Director.  After a ten minute break and with no decision imminent, the teams were encouraged to re-take the field and continue the match.

The safety of the players was the utmost concern in the minds of both coaching teams and the umpires.  With the umpires expressing their fears about the safety of the all concerned, a gentleman’s agreement between the English and Belgian benches saw an impromptu game of aerial tennis evolve.  Returning to the field, England’s players camped themselves inside their half and the Belgians sat back in theirs before each team proceeded to launch unchallenged aerial passes to each other as the clock ticked along, slowly.

With just under an hour on the clock the Tournament Director gave the go-ahead to abandon the match, much to the relief of all concerned.  Fearing the possibility of an unnecessary re-match on Thursday, the two sides continued to the hour mark before the umpires called a halt to proceedings. 

Despite not going the full 70 minutes the result stands, putting both sides into the semi finals with Belgium topping the pool with seven points to England’s six. 

As England left the ground following the match, the local fire brigade arrived.  Together with the tournament organisers and volunteers, they were last seen valiantly clearing the water from the pitch, pushing it off using large tables on their sides.

England’s semi final against the Netherlands is at 14:00hrs BST (15:00hrs local time) on Friday.  Belgium's semi final against Germany is at 17:30hrs local time.


Watch more videos from England's EuroHockey Junior Nations Championships campaign on the Hockey TV website at http://fieldhockeytv.com