Guwahati's heavy and continuous rain gave the IG Stadium pitch such a pounding that the Ghana v Mali quarter-final of the Under-17 World Cup was less an exhibition of footballing skill and more of adaptation, muscle strength and endurance. Mali won 2-1 and later Ghana coach Samuel Fabin said he believed the match should have been rescheduled for another day.
There is now some concern over the readiness of the pitch for the semi-final, to be played on Wednesday. Thundershowers are forecast for the next two days, the weather clearing up on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The decision to conduct the game took place following a routine referee's inspection at 3:30pm. A statement from FIFA said, "Following heavy rainfall ahead of the quarter-final between Mali and Ghana in Guwahati, the referee assessed the playability of the pitch upon arriving at the stadium and determined that the match could be played. Both teams were made aware of this decision. FIFA and the LOC are closely monitoring the situation ahead of the semi-final."
Fabin, said the "field didn't help much" in what he called a disappointing game. "I thought the game should have been abandoned and played in another time but those who were organizing the game they said the game should be played, so we played."
Asked whether they had faced conditions like this in a match of this importance, Fabin was unambiguous: "No, we've not encountered anything like this before."
After the first 15 minutes of play, when the ball was rolling evenly on most parts of the pitch, the rainfall increased in intensity and the pitch began to take in more water than it could drain. The ball stopped moving smoothly across the field, players found themselves over-running it or passing short of team-mates, and by half time the pitch bore the impression of boots and bodies.
Mali coach Jonas Komla, whose team adjusted far better to the conditions than the Ghanaians, said the conditions affected both teams equally. "Both teams suffered with the conditions... everyone paid for it." The Malians had practised in Guwahati's rain on Friday evening, Fabin said. They had accounted for the weather and had also played friendly matches in wet conditions in Ethiopia before travelling to India.