SINGAPORE - The state of the National Stadium pitch and the Sports Hub scheduling of events have irked national footballers Baihakki Khaizan and Khairul Amril. And, they felt, that as national athletes, they should air their views on these matters.
After Singapore's 2-2 away draw at Macau last night, they told The New Paper they had made the comments on social media last Sunday because they were worried that unlike major international gigs, local sports would not be the top priority of Singapore Sports Hub, which runs the National Stadium.
"I can accept changes, and I can accept that the Sports Hub is a public-private partnership that needs to bring in profits," said Baihakki. "But I grew up in an age where the National Stadium was the centre of all local sports - the SEA Games, the Lions, and even the national schools track and field meets - that Singaporeans had so many great memories of. "So it worries me to know that Jay Chou concert (Nov 8) could jeopardise our Suzuki Cup hosting rights when it has long been made known Singapore would co-host the tournament. "There are so many other places concerts can be held, but it is a well-respected tradition that national football teams play at national stadiums."
Amri added: "We are just being honest about how we feel. "The National Stadium has seen two football matches and rugby games, but the national football team have not played or trained there once. "They keep saying the pitch will be ready, but it seems like empty promises. "It has been two months since the Juventus game and it still looks sandy. I'm not sure with five weeks to the Suzuki Cup, how much it will improve. "And there are more concerts coming up, which means the pitch will be covered, so how will the grass grow in time?"
Even as the Lions have not achieved victories of late, the duo denied their comments were a distraction or an excuse when focus is required for the Suzuki Cup at this time.
"Our batch of players have won the tournament three times where we played hostile finals in Thailand and Indonesia," said Baihakki. "But we felt most happy when we won at home. We just want a National Stadium we can call home."
What Baihakki wrote on Instagram about the National Stadium on Sunday: "You're all fancy these days, with all the bells and whistles, but I remember the plain you, and they are wonderful memories. We won championships on the platform you provided, I became a Lion on your lawn. Hey, you made many legendary Lions who inspired the young me, and roused the nation. And not just Lions, C Kunalan, James Wong, Glory Barnabas, all names that shine from our sporting past shone on your lap. Let's not forget all the National Days we celebrated on your hallowed ground - a sacred battlefield for everyone that wore our flag. You're different now. And I'm not convinced by how you're behaving now. You don't seem to know your priorities anymore, and I don't see how new stars will be born in you again. You've sold out, haven't you? You're more about money, moving in a direction I don't understand. Honestly, I miss the old you. #nationalstadium #stadiumforconcerts #$$$
What Khairul Amri posted on Twitter: "Yes, I like the new you. Yes, don't mind waiting for you. Yes, impressed by what you can do. But, hate the one (that) manages you."
This article was first published on Oct 15, 2014.
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