For the past few days, France and Austria, whose selections face each other on Friday June 10, have shared the same feeling: a palpable uneasiness caused by the circumstances surrounding a football match. On the one hand, there is chaos at the Stade de France during the Champions League final for the Paris side on May 28. On the other, a gaping hole in the middle of the Ernst-Happel stadium lawn on the Vienna side, which created a stir on Monday.
At the end of the match against Denmark in the Austrian capital, which had started an hour and a half late due to a power failure, the images of Robert Skov Olsen plunging his foot into a hole of about thirty centimeters on the lawn have made the rounds of social networks. “It could have ruined a career today, luckily it didn’t happen.”underlined the Danish striker at the end of the match on the site of TV 2 Sports (article in Danish).
Avusturya – Danimarka maçının oynandığı Ernst Happel Stadyumu’nda açılan yarık. pic.twitter.com/sH2vwpRayV
— Winbir (@Winbirsosyal) June 8, 2022
Like France with Liverpool supporters, Austria suffered harsh criticism from the Danes. “I don’t know what’s going on in this amateur stadium.”launched Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg on TV 2 Sport, while his coach Kasper Hjulmand judged the field “disastrous“.
The evening thus caused a small crisis, against a backdrop of dilapidation of the equivalent of the Stade de France for the Austrian selection. “Holes come and go. The damage in terms of image remains“, wrote The Standard. The same Austrian media judge that Ernst Happel, a great Austrian footballer and coach who died in 1992, “would not have deserved his name to be associated with this stage“.
Its tarnished image, the ÖFB (Austrian Football Federation) therefore sought to react before welcoming the French world champions to their lawn. On the one hand, Bernhard Neuhold, general manager of the OFB, took advantage of a sponsorship operation, on the sidelines of the pre-match press conference on Thursday, to give some explanations. According to him, the problem is linked to the increase in the water table under the stadium, near the Danube, after the heavy rains that hit Vienna.
Also, the hole was patched. The players of the France team could notice it on the lawn of the stadium during their training on Thursday, with half of the central circle clearly distinct from the rest of the field. In addition to this emergency operation, the Austrian federation wishes to act in the long term. “We are the only country in Europe to have such a bad infrastructure. One day, we won’t be able to play here anymore or we won’t have the right. We have to be realistic“, lamented Gerhard Milletich, the president of the OFB.
The subject often comes up on the table. In 2008, the federation had demanded a new enclosure before hosting the Euro, obtaining from the government only the simple renovation of the Ernst-Happel stadium. The enclosure had hosted the final of the competition. From now on, it no longer seems suitable for major international meetings, according to journalists and local officials. So that Milletich and the OFB claim “a change of mentality at the federal and national levels” to get “a new multifunctional stadium“.
The OFB, which is the tenant of the Ernst-Happel stadium, “couldn’t bear” the financial contribution to the construction of a new stadium, however warned its president. The government is therefore asked to take up the problem caused by the largest stadium in the country (48,500 spectators). “But it won’t be fixed for a long time because the government does not want to pay”explained to us a member of the federation.
The famous place where the lawn of the Ernst-Happel stadium was spruced up, before the match against the Blues. You can clearly see the distinction between the stripes on the grass. #AUTFRA pic.twitter.com/SrRP3pAmcA
— Denis Menetrier (@DMenetrier) June 9, 2022
In the meantime, the Austrian selection could relocate its next matches to other cities in the country. Ralf Rangnick, the new coach of Austria, validated this option on Thursday.
While it rained a good part of the day on Thursday in the Austrian capital and the weather should also be capricious on Friday, the question obviously arises of the danger for the players and their physical integrity. “There is no problem for the match, on Monday the pitch was in good condition before the end“, assured the Austrian David Alaba while his teammates felt the part of the lawn redone Thursday, during the last training.
All eyes will therefore be on the grass on Friday evening. Austria would not like to add to their current embarrassment the injury of a player in their stadium.