Nods all round for National Stadium's new pitch
New state-of-the art turf for National Stadium ready for SEA Games
It needed a sprinkling of water before the turf at the National Stadium looked green, pristine and ready for football.
When Singapore national coach Bernd Stange and Under-23 stars Irfan Fandi and Adam Swandi stepped onto the surface yesterday, there were nods of approval all around.
Finally, the Sports Hub's National Stadium would show off a pitch that would be worthy of the grand facility.
The Singapore Sports Hub unveiled part of its brand new pitch at the National Stadium yesterday, just in time for the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games, which will be held here from June 5 to 16.
The Eclipse Stabilised Turf is from Australia-based company HG Sports Turf, who will be the official suppliers of the National Stadium for the next three years.
It will replace the much-maligned Desso Grassmaster, which drew criticism from Italian football giants Juventus and rugby's Maori All Blacks, among others, for its poor condition last year.
The Sports Hub will be the main venue of next month's SEA Games, being home to 10 of the 36 sports that will feature in the region's biggest multi-sport event.
The track and field events and both semi-finals and final of the men's football competition will be held at the 55,000-capacity National Stadium.
The natural grass, which will be laid immediately after the Games' opening ceremony on June 5, has been successfully used for international events like the Super Bowl, the 2011 Rugby World Cup and 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
The process takes about two days and involves transporting the grass in rolls from an off-site nursery.
Singapore Sports Hub chief executive Philippe Collin-Delavaud said: "HG Sports Turf have had success in stadia and events under challenging conditions and bring with them a highly trained and experienced team of professionals to install and maintain the turf at the nursery and at the National Stadium.
"We will continue to closely monitor and test the quality of the pitch before, during and after each event to ensure it is performing to our expectations of delivering a world-class facility."
Last October, Sport Singapore raised concerns over the sub-standard nature of the pitch, which featured sizeable swathes of sandy patches at the glamour Brazil-Japan friendly.
To preserve the pitch for the AFF Suzuki Cup last November, the Sports Hub Pte Ltd took a number of drastic measures. They included cancelling an international rugby match between the Maori All Blacks and the Asia Pacific Dragons, postponing a Jay Chou concert, and moving the stage for a Mariah Carey concert away from the pitch.
Hamish Sutherland, managing director of HG Sports Turf, said the life expectancy of the new turf is around 15 years, and that it would be a viable long-term solution for the National Stadium.
"Turf is affected when you use it; it has wear and tear," he said.
"What we have here is a durable turf system that can withstand the wear and tear. What will determine whether the turf is replaced in the future is the number of events.
"If it's been damaged for unforeseen reasons, then it can be replaced from the turf that's in the nursery. And that turf that is damaged can also be moved back to the nursery and regenerated."
Lions coach Stange gave it the thumbs-up after it was tested by the national Under-23 players Irfan, Adam and Ho Wai Loon - the trio are expected to be in the final 20-man squad for the SEA Games.
Said the German: "Good players can handle the ball on any pitch, but now the Sports Hub has provided us with a top-class pitch which is of an international standard.
"Today's game involves fast passing on the ground, and you can have that kind of football here."
The science behind the National Stadium's grass
TNP GRAPHIC: TEOH YI CHIE
1. Full Natural Grass Surface
Grass leaf blades grow above the top of the synthetic turf, creating a full natural surface.
2. Synthetic Turf Matrix
The grass roots become entwined in the synthetic matrix and grow unimpeded through the backing and into the rootzone material below.
3. Growing Medium Infill
The infill layer is selected to be compatible with the site's growing medium to minimise layering and any agronomic differences between the turf and underlying rootzone sand.
4. Dual-component Backing
The dual-component backing of biodegradable jute and tough plastic mesh acts as the anchor for the components above it and provides additional load-bearing capacity.
What does all this mean for the National Stadium?
The venue will be able to hold more and a greater variety of events. The turf can be rolled up and replaced when necessary and will handle greater amounts of rain and play without major damage.