S.League set for Malacca stop

Singapore's S.League teams might have to pack their bags for a three-hour road trip when the new season kicks off, likely in March.

According to Razip Ismail, coach of the Harimau Muda 'A' team competing in this season's Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League, his side will play their home games at the Hang Jebat Stadium in Malacca.

Razip told The New Paper yesterday: "Yes, I have been told we will play our matches at the Hang Jebat Stadium for the coming season.

"I don't really know what the rationale is, but the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) was the one that picked the stadium."

When contacted, FAS spokesman Gerard Wong said: "We have yet to receive official confirmation from Harimau Muda on where they will be based for the upcoming season.

"We hope they will get good fan support wherever they are based in Malaysia as this will add more excitement when they play at home in front of their fans."

In the past two seasons, the Malaysian developmental side played their home matches at the Pasir Gudang Stadium in Johor.

In their first season in 2012, the team, then coached by Malaysia Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee, were based at Yishun Stadium.

While Ong will lead the Malaysia U-23 team at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Singapore in June, Razip was recently named coach of the S.League side by the FAM executive committee as he will lead the Malaysian U-22s in their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 qualifiers in March.

Razip and his charges have started pre-season training in Kuala Lumpur and have yet to train or play at the Hang Jebat Stadium.

Said the former Kuala Lumpur FA coach: "I've not been to Hang Jebat Stadium in almost two years, but I hear the quality of pitch there is better than the one at Pasir Gudang.

"Overall, it's a bigger stadium with a larger capacity (40,000) and better facilities, and maybe that's why the FAM made it their choice."

If it is confirmed that Harimau Muda will be based in Malacca, Singapore clubs will either travel up a day earlier, or on the morning of the match.

With Malaysian kick-off times scheduled at 8.45pm, it would mean local sides will either stay in Malacca for the night on matchday, or return to Singapore by coach in the early hours of the following morning.

Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic has no qualms about more travelling time.

"Listen, we are professionals," said the former Kelantan FA forward and reigning S.League Coach of the Year.

"It's okay, no big deal to me. I'm fine with it. Anyway, to go there and come back in a bus can be good for team bonding.

"If this is the final arrangement, we are okay."

Hougang United coach Salim Moin added: "They (Harimau Muda) have the right to choose where they want to play, and the most important thing for them is to look for a place they can get fan support.

"Maybe, by picking Malacca, they felt it would be more convenient for the S.League teams than, say, Kuala Lumpur.

"It's a good chance for our local players to build their mental strength, travelling three hours then playing a game the next day, which is something they are not used to."

This article was first published on January 6, 2015.
Get The New Paper for more stories.