Sport Singapore CEO: Hosting of Suzuki Cup is a must
Hosting the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup at the new National Stadium must be made a priority.
That was the firm message from Sport Singapore chief executive Lim Teck Yin, in response to The New Paper's exclusive report yesterday over how the country's co-hosting duty at this year's Suzuki Cup at the National Stadium was in jeopardy.
Speaking to TNP on the sidelines of the opening of the Singapore Sports Museum at the Sports Hub last night, Lim said: "We have always maintained the position that we will hold the Sports Hub accountable for managing the events schedule.
"Of course, we work together to think about the kind of events we want here, but you have to pace it correctly and you have to understand the various policies and rules that various event owners have regarding their events.
"As you have reported, there is a need to deconflict, on some level, towards the end of the year (and) I will watch that carefully and see what Sports Hub does to deconflict these various events.
"We have long been anticipating... this year's Suzuki Cup here at the National Stadium and we've made it very clear to the consortium that this is our priority.
"They have to manage their events schedule to enable that to happen. And we hold them responsible for that."
The big issue is the state of the pitch at the National Stadium, which has yet to fully bed in and features sandy patches.
JAY CHOU CONCERT
Yesterday, TNP reported that a Nov 8 date for a concert by Taiwanese Mandopop king Jay Chou and the Nov 15 date for an exhibition rugby match between the Maori All Blacks and Asia Pacific Dragons (a Singapore-based invitational side comprising Asian and Polynesian players) at the National Stadium, contravened AFF regulations regarding the football pitch for host nations ahead of a Suzuki Cup.
The AFF insists that venues used for the Suzuki Cup tournament should not be used for any other matches or events a minimum of 15 working days before the first match, and its general secretary Datuk Azzudin Ahmad told TNP the regional governing body intends to stand firm on the matter.
If there is a compromise, then it is believed the concert will go on while the rugby match will be postponed, or scrapped.
The worst-case scenario is for Suzuki Cup matches here to be played at the 7,500-capacity Jalan Besar Stadium.
Much of the playing surface of the Desso pitch for the Juventus friendly with the Singapore Selection on Aug 16 was sandy, leading to complaints from fans.
Brazil play Japan in a glamour international friendly there on Tuesday and, with the concert and the rugby match, there is concern the pitch will not be able to hold up for a football tournament just a little over a week later.
Yesterday, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) conducted an inspection of the pitch.
Said an FAS spokesman: "We are of the view that the pitch is playable and the (Brazil-Japan) game can proceed if the match commissioner and teams agree.
"However, we are also of the opinion that the condition of the field is far short of expected international playing standards, which could affect the standard of play.
"We, therefore, share the AFF concerns about the readiness of the venue for the upcoming AFF Suzuki Cup.
"The FAS is supportive of the Sports Hub's ongoing efforts to ensure a good playing surface.
"To assist in this endeavour, the FAS has opted not to schedule any home international 'A' friendlies at the National Stadium, and is prepared to forego all of the Lions' training sessions (there) in the lead-up to the Suzuki Cup even though this will have an impact on home ground advantage."
FAS' decision to forgo training sessions and friendlies at the National Stadium to preserve the pitch ahead of the Suzuki Cup has raised eyebrows.
Negeri Sembilan coach V Sundramoorthy says that such a move could well hurt Singapore's chances of retaining their regional crown.
"It's important to train and play warm-up matches on the pitch before the tournament because we are hosts and we need to use that advantage against the other teams," he said.
"The FAS and Sports Hub need to work together to find a solution (and) at the very least, the team have to try and find a pitch similar to the one at the National Stadium for their preparation."
But Alex Weaver, coach of S.League title-chasers Warriors FC, said national coach Bernd Stange and his team will simply have to buckle down and try to find a way around it.
Said Weaver: "Bernd is a very experienced, very methodical coach, and I'm sure he'll want to put all the pieces together in his preparation for the tournament.
"Training on the same pitch you play your games on is one of these pieces.
"Would it make a difference that he doesn't get to train the team on the pitch? Yes. But I don't think it would make a significant difference because it is just one of many factors.
"Like he said, as professional coaches, some things are out of our control and we just have to work around some of the things that have been put in front of us. There's no point in getting distracted."
- ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LIM SAY HENG AND ALI KASIM
"The FAS has been closely monitoring the haze situation... a considered decision will be made together with the JFA, CBF and WSG in the best interests of all parties, should the haze in Singapore worsen considerably in the coming week."
- An FAS spokesman, on worries that the haze could affect the friendly between Japan and Brazil at the National Stadium on Tuesday