Lions' games at National Stadium

Lions' games at National Stadium

All three of the Singapore national team's ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup group matches are set to proceed at the new National Stadium, despite concerns over the state of the grass pitch.

The AFF is expected to announce tomorrow that the Lions' Group B matches in the biennial regional tournament - against Thailand (Nov 23), Myanmar (Nov 26) and Malaysia (Nov 29) - will go ahead as planned, after the SportsHub Pte Ltd (SHPL) gave the assurance that the National Stadium field will be ready for the opening game.

However, the other Group B fixtures - Malaysia v Myanmar (Nov 23), Malaysia v Thailand (Nov 26) and Thailand v Myanmar (Nov 29) - are likely to take place at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Although Malaysia's coach Dollah Salleh had earlier expressed his preference to play on natural grass pitches such as those in Bishan and Choa Chu Kang stadiums, the AFF feels that Jalan Besar's artificial surface is good enough because it is approved by both Fifa, football's world governing body, and the Asian Football Confederation.

The National Stadium has taken heavy flak for its sandy pitch, as its hybrid system of natural grass reinforced with artificial fibre inserts has not been growing as anticipated.

SHPL has postponed Taiwanese singer Jay Chou's concert from Nov 8 to Dec 27, as well as cancelled rugby side Maori All Blacks' Nov 15 friendly against the Asia Pacific Dragons, to give the turf some breathing space.

The Straits Times understands that the AFF has reportedly engaged Japanese turf expert Hiroi Koichi to inspect the pitch in Kallang tomorrow.

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