S.League Charity Shield could be held at National Stadium
S.League looking at holding curtain-raiser for 2017 season at National Stadium
There were good memories made the only time an S.League side played at the crown jewel of the Singapore Sports Hub.
Yasir Hanapi scored with a sumptuous left-footed curler in front of some 12,000 fans seated under the dome of the National Stadium in May, when Tampines Rovers beat Malaysian giants Selangor 1-0 in an AFC Cup group fixture.
The win ensured Tampines' progress into the Round of 16 of the regional tourney.
The Stags could well return to the National Stadium in February, this time to face reigning S.League champions Albirex Niigata.
Sources have revealed that the S.League is exploring the idea of hosting the Charity Shield - the curtain-raiser to the 2017 season - at the 55,000-seater stadium.
S.League clubs are delighted at the prospect.
"This is news to me, but indeed, it is very exciting news. There have been many calls (from the public) for the FAS to give greater attention to the league, and this is a great move in that direction," said Albirex vice-chairman Koh Mui Tee.
Sports Hub's senior director of corporate communications and stakeholder management, Chin Sau Ho, was also supportive of the idea.
"As an avid supporter of Singapore football, the Singapore Sports Hub welcomes the opportunity to have the S.League Charity Shield played at the National Stadium. We are pleased to add to the vibrancy of the local football scene," he said.
Naysayers believe hosting a match at the cavernous stadium will see swathes of empty seats, but Warriors FC general manager Paul Poh feels it should not deter the league from the bold move.
People thought nobody would show up, but there were 8,000 paying fans who watched Tampines play Selangor at the National Stadium.Albirex vice-chairman Koh Mui Tee on the AFC Cup match, which saw a turnout of 12,000
"It was good when the Women's Challenge Cup final was held there. A lot of people who turned up were thankful for the Sports Hub's support of football, and the opportunity to play there," said Poh.
The Warriors' women's team beat Woodlands Wellington 2-0 to win the Challenge Cup earlier this month.
Added Poh: "Having the game there will help the league, there is no doubt, and we will definitely support the effort.
"The Charity Shield may not fill up the stadium, but I think it is a great move for us to hold the game there. It makes sense to try and draw crowds into an S.League match at such a nice stadium."
Albirex's Koh believes all negativity should be set aside to allow local club football to use a platform as grand as the National Stadium.
"There is a lot of negativity in the football fraternity. If we keep staying negative and just do the same old things, nothing will improve," he said.
"I hope even the people who don't think much of local football take action and come and watch. If they think the football on display is lousy, jeer during the game - isn't that how it's done in football?"
Tampines chairman Krishna Ramachandra played a key role in the club hosting Selangor at the National Stadium.
The lawyer was game for a return, saying: "That will just be an amazing way to herald the new season and to put the past firmly behind us.
"It is also positive that the FAS has taken the lead in arranging this.
"Now it remains for the other stakeholders to play their parts and work collectively to get the crowds in and do justice to the season opener."