Singapore Football

Tampines could play AFC Cup match with Selangor at National Stadium

S.League giants hoping to host AFC Cup clash with Selangor at Kallang venue

They were the last S.League club to play a competitive match at the old National Stadium.

And if all goes to plan, Tampines Rovers could become the first to play at the new one located at the $1.33 billion Sports Hub.

The New Paper understands that the five-time S.League champions are keen to hold their May 10 AFC Cup match against Malaysian side Selangor at the 55,000-capacity venue, instead of the Jalan Besar Stadium, where they are scheduled to play all their home games in the continental competition.

Tampines were triumphant the last time they played at the National Stadium, beating Thai side Chonburi 3-2 to lift the Singapore Cup in front of 18,000 fans in November 2006.

AFC Cup guidelines, however, could scupper the idea. Competition rules stipulate that each participating club must play their matches at only one stadium approved by the AFC, unless they are forced to change venue "because of circumstances beyond its control".

The club must also provide evidence at least 30 days before a game as to why the original stadium is unable to host an AFC Cup match.

Club chairman Krishna Ramachandra, though, is still eager to make it a reality, and said the club would make their case to the AFC should there be good progress in discussions.

He told TNP: "Everything is very preliminary in the sense we are nowhere close to holding talks with the Sports Hub, yet.

"Clearly, the (AFC) rules are there, but we will take this one step at a time and address certain things down the line.

RIVALRY

"I still believe many fans would support this Singaporean team against a Malaysian team and it would be great for Singapore football.

"You can imagine when Tampines Rovers, with the bulk of the national team and foreign stars like Jermaine Pennant, Billy Mehmet and Jordan Webb, take on Selangor... It would be a throwback to the good old days and one of the biggest football rivalries.

"Obviously, the economics have to be worked out for us, but we have to look beyond that.

"For the Sports Hub, they would be able to revive their football relevance.

"It has got to be a meeting of minds between Tampines, the Football Association of Singapore, Sport Singapore and the Sports Hub for this to work out."

In response to queries, Sports Hub chief executive officer Manu Sawhney said: "We are always open to and welcome discussions on events that will add to the vibrancy at the Sports Hub."

Tampines kicked off their AFC Cup campaign with a 4-0 thumping of Bangladeshi side Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi at the Jalan Besar Stadium last Tuesday.

Stags coach V Sundramoorthy has targeted a place in the competition's last eight, a feat last achieved in 2008 by SAFFC and Home United, who were both ousted in the quarter-finals.

Ramachandra said he hopes at least 15,000 supporters will turn up at the National Stadium on May 10, should talks succeed.

Stags' national striker Fazrul Nawaz, who was part of the Malaysian Super League-winning LionsXII team of 2013, is excited at the prospect.

"It's a really good idea, because there's always a strong rivalry between Singapore and Malaysia," said the 30-year-old, who scored in Singapore's 2-1 win over Cambodia in a third-round Asian Cup/World Cup qualifier at the National Stadium last October.

"Local fans will definitely be excited for Tampines against Selangor, and to have them come down in numbers for the game will be a boost for local football."

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