Aug 8 Derby postponed
Singapore-Malaysia clash will not be the first football match at the new National Stadium
It was to be a tasty tussle, a clash of age-old rivals to christen the Republic's new state-of-the-art sports colosseum.
But the football match between Singapore and Malaysia on the eve of National Day has been postponed.
It will not be the first football game to be hosted at the new 55,000-capacity National Stadium, the crown jewel of the $1.33 billion Singapore Sports Hub.
Citing the need for more time to prepare for the "high turnout" expected, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) announced yesterday that the match will be rescheduled, with a new date yet to be set.
While the National Stadium will welcome Rugby's World Club 10s next month as its inaugural sporting event, Italian giants Juventus' match against a Singapore Selection side will now be the first football match to be held there.
"Given the high turnout expected, and to ensure a truly memorable experience and spectacle for every spectator, FAS has concluded that it will need more time to prepare for the event," said Winston Lee, FAS' general secretary, in a statement yesterday.
"We have informed the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) of our decision and expressed our regrets for any inconveniences caused. We will work closely with the FAM to find another suitable date for the match."
The Causeway rivals have been involved in some tense match-ups in the last few years and any prospect of fan trouble for the derby on Aug 8 will now be avoided.
On Tuesday, five Johor Darul Ta'zim fans were arrested for disorderly behaviour in the Malaysian Super League fixture against Singapore side LionsXII at the Jalan Besar Stadium amid allegations of poor organisation.
While the Singapore-Malaysia fixture would have seen national pride on the line, the Aug 16 match against Antonio Conte's Juventus - the three-time reigning Serie A champions - will at least witness world-class footballers, even if it is against a local team made up of national players and stars from the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League.
National coach Bernd Stange is set to lead that side, and he told The New Paper it did not matter that the national team are not taking part in the first game at the National Stadium.
"One is a national team game, and the other is a selection team - they are two different games - I'm actually looking to bring in foreign players like (Home United's) Sirina Camara and Nicolas Velez (Warriors FC) against Juventus," Stange told TNP.
"But I don't have a preference for which match will be the first football game at the National Stadium."
Former Singapore international Lim Tong Hai felt that a national team fixture could have been more engaging.
"A national team game would have been ideal, there's national pride at stake, and against Malaysia, with whom we share an intense rivalry," he said.
"But if they've postponed it, there must be good reasons, and Juventus aren't a bad team to be the first opponents there.
"It should be about bringing a good game of football, bringing back the crowd and showcasing the new stadium.
"I'll be there to watch for sure."
Both FAS and FAM are working together to find a suitable date for the Singapore-Malaysia fixture.
FAM general secretary Hamidin Amin said: "The FAS has been in touch with us, and we understand why it has decided to postpone the game.
"Given the good relations and long footballing history between the two countries, we remain very keen to have a Singapore-Malaysia game at the new National Stadium."