Nepali Times Asian Paints
Indoors, outdoors and no-fly zones


England has asked Holland to help them out after learning that their grudge World Cup showdown with Argentina will be played indoors. The 7 June clash at Sapporo's Hiroba Dome will be the first competitive game England has played in a covered stadium and Football Association (FA) officials were trying to persuade Holland to close the roof at the Amsterdam Arena for the 13 February friendly in an attempt to replicate conditions in Japan.

Even that would not fully prepare England for the space-age technology of the Hiroba Dome. The seats on one side of the arena part as the pitch, which is kept outside under natural light, is brought in on a hovering stage before being spun through 90 degrees and set in place.

It has been suggested that the dark background makes it harder to see the ball, especially for goalkeepers, and England wants to leave no stone unturned in their preparations for the Group of Fear.

FA executive director David Davies confirmed that the roof in Sapporo was not retractable and added: "It is a coincidence that we are playing Holland in Amsterdam in February. Whether the roof remains in place is for the Dutch to decide, but we have asked for it to be closed."

Davies and the FA were working on England's pre-World Cup itinerary to prepare for the other Group F games against Sweden and Nigeria.

Paraguay, second to Argentina in the South American qualifying group, are the likely choice to fill April's friendly date and St James' Park is the favoured venue.

The FA will also seek dispensation from FIFA to play one of the other African qualifiers-Cameroon or South Africa are the first two choices-after arriving at their preferred pre-tournament base in Korea sometime around 17 May.

England will stay at the Paradise Hotel on Jeju Island, 15 minutes from the Seogwipo World Cup Stadium, before transferring to the Westin Hotel on Awaji Island near Kobe five days before the tournament starts on 31 May.

Confirmation that England will be in Japan for their entire competitive programme caused unhappiness in Korea but delight on Awaji, which was the epicentre of the 1995 Kobe earthquake.

One of Japan's major television networks has run a special feature celebrating the fact that England will be on Awaji and Yutaka Maruyama, general manager of the hotel, recently said: "We cannot wait to see players like David Beckham and Michael Owen. Everybody at the hotel will now have English lessons."

FA chief executive Adam Crozier said: "Awaji is the easiest training location to secure. We'll have our own security team but will liaise extensively with the Japanese officials."

England's players will have their kit-bags and meals checked for anthrax as part of the biggest security clampdown in World Cup history. The stringent measures also include establishing no-fly zones over stadiums and training camps.

FIFA has been forced to take extra security precautions after the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington caused its initial insurance
deal for the tournament to collapse.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)