A surface safe for all
Stadio Futsal's infill-free artificial pitches allay cancer fears
Clubs in Holland have already closed 30 artificial pitches and, about a month ago, the South China Morning Post reported that five schools in Hong Kong closed their pitches due to "safety concerns".
While Hong Kong has not specified its concerns, issues have been raised in the United States, England and Holland about rubber granules used as infill in artificial pitches.
Anecdotal evidence gathered in the US noted these rubber granules can cause cancer in young footballers, and The New Paper had previously reported that authorities are "monitoring developments".
There are 140 artificial pitches in Singapore schools, five Sport Singapore (SportSG) facilities, and several more privately-run facilities.
One pitch operator here has installed a surface that will set minds at ease.
Stadio Futsal's latest venue - on the rooftop of the Civil Service Club on Tessensohn Road - features two five-a-side pitches that do not use any sort of infill on its surface.
Infills are utilised to provide cushioning for players, and rubber is not the only option.
The pitch at Jalan Besar Stadium utilises infill made from natural recycled materials composed of coconut husk and recycled cork material.
But, instead of embedding shock-absorbing elements in its turf, Stadio's new offering features a cushion base installed beneath the turf - Greenfields' FT XP 32 NF - a Fifa-approved surface using TenCate XP Yarn.
Some who played at Tessensohn did not immediately notice the difference.
"This is the first time we are using this pitch, and the grass does seem longer than usual," said 31-year-old Rex Tan, who takes part in regular kickabouts.
"But, now that you mention it, yes, there are no black bits (rubber granules) in this pitch.
"Those black bits tend to get stuck everywhere, and are a bit annoying. It's great that this pitch doesn't use those."
While Tan felt the ball appeared to slip across the surface, he enjoyed the experience.
"This is a lot better than many of the other artificial surfaces we've played on," he added.
Stadio has also installed an infill-free surface at another of its rooftop venues at the Amara Hotel.
"There has been good response to the new pitch that we have installed, and we are seriously considering installing this at our other venues in the future," said a Stadio statement.
One of the first to raise concern over rubber granules was former US international Amy Griffin, whose anecdotal evidence inspired several reports last year, and even saw ESPN produce a documentary, The Turf War.
Griffin, who tracked incidents from 2009 to 2015, found that out of 187 who had been stricken by cancer, 150 played football, and 95 out of those were goalkeepers, who are more likely to get the granules in their eyes and mouth.
But there are reports including one from The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission that found toxicity levels in the rubber granules to be within permissible standards.