Ankle-deep snow prompts concerns over safety and respect at Young Matildas match

<span>Despite heavy snow, <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Australia;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Australia</a> defeated <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:South Korea;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">South Korea</a> at the Under-20s Asian Cup in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.</span><span>Photograph: Football Australia</span>

Heavy snowfall that was only partially cleared from the pitch ahead of the Young Matildas’ opening Under-20s Women’s Asian Cup game has prompted concerns over player safety and accusations of disrespect.

In their match against South Korea at the tournament in Uzbekistan, coach Leah Blayney’s side had to deal with the bizarre situation where organisers had removed snow from only the perimeter of the pitch and around the centre circle, but left ankle-deep snow everywhere else.

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It made fluent football nigh impossible as players were forced to wade through slush covering the majority of the pitch, deal with the ball getting stuck on ice and dig through the snow before taking free-kicks.

The situation sparked outrage from the football community, with claims that an international women’s football match deserved far better.

Despite the adversity, the Young Matildas got their tournament off to a winning start, after coming back from a 1-0 half-time deficit to win 2-1 thanks to goals from Peta Trimis and vice captain Naomi Chinnama.

Football Australia would not provide comment on the state of the pitch, but their match report acknowledged the “challenging conditions” both teams faced at Do’stlik Stadium in Tashkent.

Australian coach Blayney made a number of key changes at half-time, and afterwards praised her players for adjusting to the unprecedented conditions, saying it was a novelty for some in more ways than one.

“For some of the players it was actually the first time for them to see snow, so it was about calming them down, making them understand the conditions they were going to have to adapt to and go out there with confidence and a game plan,” she said.

Goalkeeper Chloe Lincoln said the experience was “intense”, although she was able to take some positives out of the challenge she and her teammates overcame.

“It was very slippery out there, very wet and icy and it was a bit of a weird dynamic with the snow and grass,” she said. “It would really hold up on the snow and then skid through on the grass.

“I enjoyed having to work around those barriers, physically and mentally, and I guess see the fun in it and try to be resilient in these sort of moments.”

Goalscorer Trimis said: “I’ve never played in anything like that. It was such a shock, but I think we adapted well in the end. We found the spaces where there was less snow, which was obviously out wide, so just tried to hit balls out wide and get crosses in.”

The Young Matildas next face tournament hosts Uzbekistan on Wednesday, when conditions are forecast to be milder.