SEA Games hockey pitches far from perfect
In nine days, Singapore will play host to the likes of Malaysia, Japan and Poland in the Men's World League Round 2, a tournament that acts as a qualifier for the 2016 Olympics as well as the International Hockey Federation (FIH) World Cup.
Five months later, the Singapore Hockey Federation's (SHF) Sengkang headquarters will also host South-east Asia (SEA) Games matches.
While assurances have been given by Sport Singapore (SportSG), problems with the two pitches at the Sengkang Hockey Stadium have already affected the fixture schedule of this month's tournament, and is causing concern in the fraternity.
The two artificial pitches at Sengkang have suffered subsidence in the ground beneath the playing surface, resulting in some potholes.
Both surfaces were burnt while work was done on the floodlights last July.
And the SHF was advised by the FIH that unless both pitches were re-turfed, they would not be fit to host international games.
No other hockey pitch in Singapore has the required facilities - including scoreboards and a technical area - to host international games.
While work on Sengkang's Pitch 1 has been completed, the SHF has yet to receive official certification that is an FIH prerequisite to host the Men's World League Round 2, which are scheduled for Jan 17 to 25.
Work on Pitch 2 - Pitch 1 work took around four months from August to December last year - has yet to start, with the SEA Games scheduled to kick off on June 5.
Responding to queries from The New Paper, Lai Chin Kwang, SportSG's chief of ActiveSG, said: "Singapore is on track to host both the Men's World League Round 2 and the sport of hockey for the 28th SEA Games at the Sengkang Hockey Stadium.
"Currently, one of the two pitches is ready, and competition for the Men's World League Round 2 is to proceed as planned. After the competition, we will re-examine both pitches and make rectification works where necessary to ensure the pitches are ready for 28th SEA Games."
The SHF has tweaked fixtures for the World League tournament due to the fact that only one pitch - when certification is received - can be utilised.
Said SHF president Mathavan Devadas: "Ideally, we'd like to have two pitches to run the World League, but because there are only eight teams taking part, we can manage by having one match in the morning (9am), one at 3pm, one at 5.30pm and the last at 8pm.
"But this cannot be done for the SEA Games because there are too many teams (a total of 13 teams, for the men's and women's tournament) that have expressed their interest to participate."
He revealed that an FIH-accredited laboratory did test the completed pitch last month, but he is in the dark over why it has yet to be certified.
"We assume that Sport SG is in contact with the laboratory and we will also communicate with them the urgency in receiving certification," said Mathavan.