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England’s clash with Andorra to go ahead despite fire at stadium

By October 8, 2021No Comments

England’s World Cup qualifier in Andorra will go ahead despite a spectacular fire at the stadium on the eve of the game.

The Three Lions are in the Pyrenees to take on the side ranked 156th in the world and trained at the Estadi Nacional on Friday lunchtime, before Gareth Southgate and stand-in skipper Kieran Trippier faced the media.

Shortly after England left the 3,300-capacity stadium a fire broke out on the TV gantry, with black smoke filling the air as flames ripped through the structure in Andorra la Vella.

Stadium staff tried to get the blaze under control with sprinklers before the fire brigade arrived, with one onlooker telling the PA news agency that welders had been working there when the fire started.

The Football Association was initially unsure whether there would be an impact on Saturday evening’s qualifier, but the Andorran Football Federation confirmed the match is unaffected by the fire.

A spokesperson for the governing body said: “As we all know there has been a small accident and a fire.

“No personal harm has been reported, only material damages and the schedule will continue as foreseen. No changes there (with) press conference and training.

“There has been an official statement given by our minister of sport and the president of the federation. The match will be played.”

The clean-up operation was under way as Andorra trained on Friday evening, with cones laid out to show the area for players to avoid.

England’s clash with Andorra to go ahead despite fire at stadium PLZ Soccer
The fire has caused significant damage (Simon Peach/PA)

The damaged surface is set to be replaced before Saturday’s game, with head coach Koldo Alvarez relaxed about the entire situation.

“I’ve no idea about the fire, how it started or any information about it,” the Andorra boss said. “The people that are in charge are the ones who are arranging it.

“I think that what we have to do is congratulate everybody because there has been no personal harm, which is the most important part.

“But I have no doubt that the same as we are going to train, we will be able to play tomorrow.”

Part of the dugout melted and the fourth official shelter was destroyed, as was the video assistant referee’s monitor.

The walls were blackened and there was debris on a part of the much-discussed artificial surface.

England’s clash with Andorra to go ahead despite fire at stadium PLZ Soccer
The VAR monitor and TV gantry have been damaged and there is concern about the state of the playing surface (Simon Peach/PA)

Wales raged about the Estadi Nacional pitch after a European Championship qualifier in 2014, with Gareth Bale saying it was “by far the worst I’ve ever played on”.

The Andorran Football Federation said it was improved last year to what an official called a “hybrid surface” and Southgate is not overly concerned by the pitch.

“A lot of those interviews were from when Wales played here and it has been re-laid so it is a more up-to-date surface,” the England boss said on Friday, which marked five years to the day since he took charge of his first match against Malta.

“We have played on some really difficult grass pitches where teams have kept the length of the grass long and have moved the ball quickly, so for us to have a surface where you know you can move the ball quickly is good.

“All the players have grown up in academies, in under-ages playing on these pitches. We played in Lithuania on one, so we have to adapt.

“The game is slightly different. The risk is you always play to feet, would be an observation from matches I have seen on this surface and we have to make sure we play as much as our normal game as well can.”

England’s 24-man squad got a feel for Andorra’s artificial pitch on the eve of the game and Southgate does not feel he has to protect any players like Harry Kane – albeit Trippier’s role as captain all but confirms the striker will not start.

“No, every player is available,” the Three Lions boss said. “To be honest there are players with different medical issues that would be less likely to be available than Harry.

“But none that would stop them playing a part in the game.

“We are conscious that one or two have small ongoing problems, the sort of things that changing a surface can create a problem. Changing one grass surface to another is one of the biggest injury risks you have.

“But with the artificial it’s a similar thing, it’s the change from one to the other that can create a problem. But we’re not concerned with Harry at all.”