S'pore-M'sia clash postponed

S'pore-M'sia clash postponed
File photo of Khairul Amri playing against ATM.

It was billed as the fitting opener for the new National Stadium - a football match between Singapore vs Malaysia, two neighbours who share a rich footballing rivalry.

But the Aug 8 game, which was supposed to be the first soccer match at the new $1.33 billion Sports Hub, has been postponed indefinitely.

In a statement last night, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said that given the "very encouraging" response to the match and an anticipated bumper crowd, it needed more time to prepare for the event.

"We have informed the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) of our decision and expressed our regrets for any inconvenience caused. We will work closely with the FAM to find another suitable date for the match.

"We will announce more details on the rescheduled match at an opportune time. We would like to thank everyone for their understanding."

FAM general-secretary Hamidin Amin was also quoted in the statement as saying that the FAM understands why the game had to be postponed.

"Given the good relations and long footballing history between the two countries, we remain very keen to have a Singapore-Malaysia game at the new National Stadium, and we will be working closely with the FAS to find another suitable date," he added.

The match, which is co-organised by the Sports Hub, had already been postponed from its original May date, owing to delays in the completion of the 55,000-capacity National Stadium.

The Sunday Times understands that both soccer associations will meet in the next two weeks to discuss a new date.

The sudden postponement of the match, set for a day before National Day, caught many fans by surprise. It was only in February that the match was announced, along with the Sports Hub's other events for the year.

The match had been eagerly anticipated by fans, especially since the annual Singapore-Malaysia Causeway Challenge was cancelled last year, with the FAM citing that their team was not ready for the match as the reason for the pull-out.

Said student Ridhwan Azmi, 29: "I hope that we don't have to wait another year for the match. Last year the Causeway Challenge was cancelled, and we lost the one in 2012, so I was really looking forward to the match this year, to show that we can beat Malaysia."

Singapore-Malaysia soccer rivalry dates back to 1921, when Singapore were part of Malaya and took part in the inaugural Malaya Cup, which is now known as the Malaysia Cup.

Singapore pulled out of the Malaysian Premier League in 1995. But the interest in Singapore-Malaysia soccer was revived in 2012 when Singapore returned to the Malaysia League after an 18-year absence. soccer fever also came back last year as the LionsXII were crowned Malaysia Super League champions.

But with rival fans travelling up and down the Causeway, there have been instances of crowd trouble by groups of fans.

On Tuesday, some fans of Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) were denied entry to Jalan Besar Stadium for their team's match against LionsXII as their tickets were not for the appropriate seating areas. Three years ago, after the Lions beat Malaysia 5-3 in a World Cup qualifier, both sets of supporters clashed outside Jalan Besar Stadium.

But soccer fans say the incidents are not representative of the Causeway rivalry.

Said Arief Aditya, 25: "What happened on Tuesday is a one-off. The incident involving JDT fans is just a case of fans not being managed properly. I don't think they came here to find trouble. They just want to support their team.

"I have watched Singapore and LionsXII matches home and away, and I am confident that fans will not go over-the-top. We all understand it's a soccer match, not a matter of life and death."

The National Stadium's first event will be the June 21-22 World Club 10s championship, a first-of-its-kind rugby union competition.

The venue is also scheduled to host a match between Juventus and a Singapore Selection side on Aug 16, as well as November's ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup.

meng@sph.com.sg

siangyee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 25, 2014.
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