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Burst pipe blamed for Hong Kong football pitch fiasco

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Jan Vertonghen, the Tottenham defender, suffered an ankle injury due to the swamp-like pitch at the Hong Kong Stadium pitch during a pre-season tournament in July. Robert Cianflone / Getty Images
Robert Cianflone Staff
Jan Vertonghen, the Tottenham defender, suffered an ankle injury due to the swamp-like pitch at the Hong Kong Stadium pitch during a pre-season tournament in July. Robert Cianflone / Getty Images

HONG KONG // A ruptured underground pipe – not heavy rain or an intense fixture schedule – has been cited as the culprit for wrecking a Hong Kong pitch that played host to some of the English Premier League’s biggest names this summer.

The same venue will host the UAE’s Asian Cup 2014 qualifier against Hong Kong on October 15.

Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland featured in the Barclays Asia Trophy played on a swampy Hong Kong Stadium pitch in July. Authorities discovered the problem just days before the pre-season tournament began, the South China Morning Post reported yesterday. 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 Tottenham 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 newspaper.

“Every time they turned on the sprinklers, water was gushing out from the broken area, saturating the ground underneath.”

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 paper said, citing a source.

Andre Villas-Boas, the Tottenham manager, reacted angrily after seeing defender Vertonghen pick up an ankle injury while Paolo Di Canio, then the manager of Sunderland, branded the surface “a killer pitch”.

– Agence France-Presse