Leonard Thomas: The National Stadium must be the spiritual home of football
Football at the National Stadium is not meant to be like this.
While there are always numerous details to iron out, and a lot of hard work required, it is not supposed to be this tough to organise and fans here are not expected to bite back nerves and hope a game goes on and the pitch holds up.
This nation pulled off a masterstroke with the Formula 1 night race along downtown Singapore that wows the world, but is struggling to show off Italians, Brazilians and Japanese players, and a whole host of South-east Asian teams, including our very own Lions, do battle on a rich, green football pitch.
Singapore Sports Hub Pte Ltd simply have to get a grip of this issue with the pitch at the National Stadium.
And the rugby clash between the Asia-Pacific Dragons and the Maori All Blacks must be postponed, or cancelled, for the 2014 Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup to be held at the National Stadium.
Because football is the No. 1 sport in Singapore, its spiritual home was the old National Stadium and its spiritual home must remain at the new National Stadium.
Singapore cannot have it any other way.
The 25-year deal struck between the Sports Hub and Sport Singapore is one of the largest Public-Private-Partnership projects in the world.
It is unique and will obviously throw up difficult problems in the first few years.
This is not one of them and the Sports Hub have to hold their hands up, and rectify their mistake.
I am fully on board with the idea of the 55,000-capacity stadium being used for rugby and cricket, the ability to manoeuvre the pitch to fit the specific requirement of any of the three sports is a wonderful innovation.
Of course this is a business, money must be made and concerts will also be held at the magnificently structured arena, but football has to take top billing on the calendar of events, especially when it is the biggest and most prestigious competition in South-east Asia.
There are brilliant people at the Sports Hub and among its consortium partners, they have world-class experts dealing with the unique Desso turf, which makes it an even bigger mystery how so many events were lined up at the stadium after the pitch came in for criticism at the first football game there - the Juventus-Singapore Selection friendly on Aug 16.
Alarm bells should have rung already.
Especially when World Sport Group, the events promoters partner with the Sports Hub, are also aligned with the AFF and are heavily involved with the Suzuki Cup.
I would think any pitch needs time to breathe, for the roots to get a firm foothold and bed in, yet, till today, the Sports Hub are grappling with sandy pockmarks on the centrepiece of the National Stadium.
It is safe to play on, otherwise the opening game would not have gone ahead, but it is not ideal for the best football to be served up.
If there are ugly patches on Tuesday when Brazil take on Japan, it will be an eyesore that will be beamed to millions around the world on TV and that will hurt the reputation of a facility that has been touted as a modern marvel.
And Singapore will not come out favourably.
The AFF is not being unreasonable when it insists that its rule - there must be no activity on the football ground for a minimum of 15 days - be applied for the pitch.
The region is striving to haul itself out of the funk of amateurism and an insistence that the basics, like a proper pitch for the best footballers in South-east Asia, are essential.
I believe that if the grass had firmly taken hold and was gritty enough to withstand the rigours of a rugby game, followed by a host of football matches within a tight time frame, the AFF would have given the green light for the current schedule.
The only time that grey clouds ever hovered over Singapore's old football coliseum was when the Lions were cowed into submission.
The Lions have not even trained there yet, and there is a pall over the new arena.
But the national team will enter this year's Suzuki Cup as record four-time champions of Asean and there is so much to look forward to as Bernd Stange's men prepare to defend their crown on home soil.
Already, the Football Association of Singapore has decided to scrap friendly matches and training sessions for the Lions at what will be their new home, in the build-up to their first match against Thailand on Nov 23.
It is potentially a big blow for the team, their task has become harder, but Shahril Ishak, Hariss Harun and Co. can overcome the hurdle.
The Sports Hub consortium must do the right thing and if there are penalties to pay for the rugby match being scrapped, or postponed, then so be it.
Playing the Suzuki Cup at Jalan Besar Stadium is simply not the solution.
The grey clouds that hang over Singapore football's new spiritual home have to be cleared.