World Football

5 Worst Weather Conditions in Football History

Ross EdgleyFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2014

5 Worst Weather Conditions in Football History

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    JACK DEMPSEY

    When England arrive in Manaus for the World Cup this summer, they will be subjected to playing conditions unlike any that they’ve experienced on English soil.

    According to The Telegraph, the Brazilian city has “average highs of 30C (87F) and more than 80 percent humidity,” which means dehydration, electrolyte depletion and heat exhaustion could all be major factors in the team’s ability to endure 90 minutes at full pace.

    But in the scheme of things, how bad are the conditions in Manaus compared to the worst in football history? And how much does the wrath of Mother Nature really affect a team’s performance?

    Here we take a look at the five worst playing conditions in football history from dangerously strong winds to blinding fog to a total eclipse of the sun. 

Honourable Mention: Torquay United vs. Portsmouth F.C. (1999)

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    Julio Cortez

    Torquay United's League Cup first-round fixture against Portsmouth F.C. at Plainmoor stadium on Wednesday, August 11, 1999, didn't actually take place.

    It was postponed due to the first total eclipse of the sun since 1927. Police declared they didn’t have the resources to oversee the match and the eclipse at the same time.

    Because the match never actually took place, technically it can’t make the list for the worst playing conditions in football history, but it's a cool story that did make ESPN's "Top 10 Sporting Postponements."

5. Newcastle United vs. Swansea Town (1953)

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    In 1953, St. James Park was filled with 63,499 fans all eager to watch Newcastle United play Swansea Town in a FA Cup third-round clash.

    Unfortunately, after only eight minutes of play, officials cancelled the match due to a thick layer of fog that engulfed the pitch and prevented players seeing from one end to the other.

    As is evident from the video, the conditions were so bad even the commentators struggled to narrate what was happening.

    It could be argued the conditions were not as dangerous or detrimental to a team’s performance as others on this list, which is why this FA Cup clash only makes No. 5 on the list.

4. Ukraine vs. France (2012)

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    In 2012, during the group stages of the European Cup, Ukraine faced France only to have play stopped by one of the most intense torrential downpours ever recorded during a football game.

    After just five minutes of play, referee Bjorn Kuipers brought a stop to the game at Donbass Arena as conditions went from difficult to dangerous "with fork lightning overhead," according to The Sun (subscription required).

    Officials did manage to restart the match after 55 minutes, and despite a badly waterlogged pitch, France went on to beat Ukraine 2-0.

    Because the match was resumed, unlike Newcastle vs. Swansea Town’s FA Cup clash, this European Cup fixture makes fourth on the list but is denied a podium finish as many argue the three that follow should have never been played at all. 

3. USA vs. Costa Rica (2013)

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    What about weather conditions that have actually instilled a new rivalry between two nations? That’s exactly what happened during the 2013 CONCACAF World Cup qualifier between the USA and Costa Rica.

    Now known as the Snow Clasico, according to Sports Illustrated, the match took place in Commerce City, Colorado, on a pitch that was completely covered in snow and frozen solid.

    Many believe the game should have never been played and the result should be disregarded. Looking at the video, it’s easy to see why, but regardless, the USA took a 1-0 victory. Costa Rica have been counting down the days when they can get redemption for the Snow Clasico result ever since.

    By now you’re probably thinking what could possibly be worse than weather conditions that sparked a sporting war between two countries? Well read on since No. 2 and No. 1 will truly blow your mind.

2. FK Ekibastuz vs. CSKA Almaty (2013)

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    Whilst fans and officials still debate whether the Snow Clasico should have been played, there’s absolutely no denying this next match absolutely should have been cancelled.

    In the Kazakhstan League match between FK Ekibastuz and CSKA Almaty, the pitch was so waterlogged that the ball actually floated in certain areas of the pitch.

    In the video, you see a referee firmly committed to the rulebook, insisting a corner kick is taken correctly despite the ball visibly floating from the corner flag. Granted, rules are there to be obeyed, but in this particular case, you’d hope common sense would prevail.

    But despite the lunacy, FK Ekibastuz vs. CSKA Almaty only picks up the silver medal in the worst weather conditions in football history since it could be argued the players were never in danger—unlike the fixture that takes our No. 1 spot. 

1. Black Leopards vs. Orlando Pirates (2007)

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    Which match takes the No. 1 spot for the worst weather conditions in football history? Surely nothing can compete against the referee from Kazakhstan who failed to acknowledge the match was in fact floating?

    Well, yes there is, and it comes in the form of the 2007 match between the Black Leopards and the Orlando Pirates.

    Kick-off had already been delayed at Ellis Park because of a power failure. But the real disruption to this game occurred when one linesman and three players were hit by perimeter advertising boards that were sent flying across the pitch by gale-force winds.

    The referee was forced to suspend play temporarily whilst the boards were removed, but shortly after, a thunderstorm followed, which meant the game was abandoned completely.

    Because players were tasked with playing through one power failure and one thunderstorm all while dodging missiles thrown in their way in the form of wind-propelled advertising boards, the Black Leopards vs.Orlando Pirates 2007 clash takes the gold for the worst weather condition in football history.

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