The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has been asked to explain why an Under-20s Women’s Asian Cup match between the Young Matildas and South Korea was allowed to go ahead on a pitch that was buried in about 15 centimetres of snow.

Australia kicked off its opening game of Group A on Sunday night at Do’stlik Stadium, an outdoor athletics ground in the Tashkent region of Uzbekistan.

By the time the game started at 1pm local time, the temperature was -2 degrees Celsius with heavy snow having fallen on the artificial pitch in the hours leading up to the game.

An image from a soccer game being played in the snow.

Neither team could pass the ball through the middle of the pitch for the majority of the game due to the heavy snow layers.(Supplied: 10Play)

While efforts were made by ground staff to clear some of the snow away, only the edges of the field and the line markings were removed before the opening whistle.

As a result, the entire middle of the field was still covered in snow so deep that players’ boots got stuck in the ice, while others had to use their hands to dig holes down into the grass to take free kicks.

Young Matildas head coach Leah Blayney said she had to “calm [her players] down” when they arrived at the pitch for the warm-ups, as some of them had never seen — let alone played — in the snow before.

“I think it really demonstrated the maturity of the playing group and their ability to adapt,” she said afterwards.

“The group coming together in a tough time, I think that’s important in tournament football and in anything you do in life — on and off the pitch.

“The playing group showed real character and resilience tonight and flexibility to adapt.”

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Australian goalkeeper Chloe Lincoln — whose fumble in the first half led to South Korea scoring the opening goal — said she and her teammates were shocked when they first arrived and were only given a small space to do their warm-ups in freezing conditions.

“I think that was definitely a bit of adjustment,” she said after their 2-1 come-from-behind win.

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

“I know that everyone was definitely a bit shocked turning up and seeing the snow on the pitch, and I think it was still a bit unknown in the warm-up whether we would be dealing with it in the actual match too.

“So I think the ability for the group to adapt and then the resilience, when we conceded in that first half, to come out in the second half and bring new energy and never give up — never say die — that was a really proud moment for me being part of this group.”

The state of the pitch was immediately criticised by those watching online, including former Matildas Amy Chapman and Alex Chidiac. Not only did the snow affect the movement of the ball, but it also posed a risk to players’ bodies as they landed and twisted on the uneven surface.

AFC officials on the ground were asked by Football Australia staff about why the game was allowed to commence in such conditions, only to be directed to a general AFC media email address.

The AFC has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

Players from South Korea and Australia during a game at the U20 Women's Asian Cup in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on March 3, 2024 played in the snow

South Korea opened the scoring but the Young Matildas fought back to win 2-1.(Supplied: The AFC)

Professional Footballers Australia, the players’ union which covers both domestic and national teams, criticised the AFC in a statement on Monday.

“The AFC U20 Women’s Asian Cup represents the pinnacle of the game in our region for our most talented young players.

“Despite the occasion, and with a place at the FIFA Youth World Cup at stake, the pitch at Do’stlik Stadium, Tashkent for the Young Matildas U20 Asian Cup was unacceptable and dangerous.

“The fact that players escaped without serious injury is a miracle.

“Pitch quality is fundamental to ensuring a safe workplace for players and a quality product for fans. As the competition organiser, the AFC has an obligation to secure a safe environment for the players and the conditions last night fell well short of that commitment.

“We note that in near impossible conditions, the players’ professionalism was outstanding, and a credit to their commitment to representing their country.”

According to the AFC’s Competition Operations Manual, host federations must ensure that the field “is in playable condition” and complies with the requirements set out in FIFA’s Laws Of The Game, as well as other competition and stadium regulations.

“If there is any doubt regarding the condition of the field of play prior to the match, the referee shall decide whether the field of play is playable,” the manual says.

A soccer game takes place in heavy white snow inside a stadium in North America

A Major League Soccer game also went ahead in heavy snow over the weekend.(Getty Images: Chris Gardner)

However, there are no specific rules within the current Laws of the Game — the guidelines provided by the International Football Association Board that apply to all levels of world football — that specify when a pitch is deemed unplayable due to adverse weather conditions.

The only requirement, according to one source familiar with match operations, is that the field markings and match ball need to be visible.

It is unknown whether the match officials for Australia’s game against South Korea had experience or training in inspecting fields in cold weather conditions, nor whether there were any discussions about delaying or cancelling the game.

It is also not known if the teams involved made formal complaints to the AFC before, during, or after the match was played.

A similar snow game was played in America’s Major League Soccer competition over the weekend, with LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo saying the game was “one of the worst professional sporting events I’ve ever seen in my life”.

“It was an absolute joke we had to play today,” he said afterwards.

“The game could have and should have been called [off].

“In my opinion, it was an absolute disgrace we had to play today.”