Football, always No.1 in Singapore

Football, always No.1 in Singapore
Friendly match between Singapore Selection and Juventus at the new National Stadium on 16 Aug 2014.

Football at the National Stadium is not meant to be like this.

While there are always numerous details to iron out, and a lot of hard work required, it is not supposed to be this tough to organise and fans here are not expected to bite back nerves and hope a game goes on and the pitch holds up.

This nation pulled off a masterstroke with the Formula 1 night race along downtown Singapore that wows the world, but is struggling to show off Italians, Brazilians and Japanese players, and a whole host of South-east Asian teams, including our very own Lions, do battle on a rich, green football pitch.

Singapore Sports Hub Pte Ltd simply have to get a grip of this issue with the pitch at the National Stadium.

And the rugby clash between the Asia-Pacific Dragons and the Maori All Blacks must be postponed, or cancelled, for the 2014 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup to be held at the National Stadium.

Because football is the No. 1 sport in Singapore, its spiritual home was the old National Stadium and its spiritual home must remain at the new National Stadium.

Singapore cannot have it any other way.

The 25-year deal struck between the Sports Hub and Sport Singapore is one of the largest Public-Private-Partnership projects in the world.

It is unique and will obviously throw up difficult problems in the first few years.

This is not one of them and the Sports Hub have to hold their hands up, and rectify their mistake.

I am fully on board with the idea of the 55,000-capacity stadium being used for rugby and cricket, the ability to manoeuvre the pitch to fit the specific requirement of any of the three sports is a wonderful innovation.

Of course this is a business, money must be made and concerts will also be held at the magnificently structured arena, but football has to take top billing on the calendar of events, especially when it is the biggest and most prestigious competition in South-east Asia.

There are brilliant people at the Sports Hub and among its consortium partners, they have world-class experts dealing with the unique Desso turf, which makes it an even bigger mystery how so many events were lined up at the stadium after the pitch came in for criticism at the first football game there - the Juventus-Singapore Selection friendly on Aug 16.

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