Sports Hub: Home of the Lions

A general view of the under construction National Stadium in Singapore on February 27, 2014.

It is primed to host world and European champions Spain, Asian superpowers Japan and Serie A's most successful club, Juventus, over the next 12 months.

The Singapore Sports Hub is set to open its doors in April, and football will take centre-stage in the crown jewel of the $1.33 billion facility - the National Stadium.

While it will stage glamour friendlies, the new 55,000-capacity stadium will also become the home of the Singapore football team. Speaking to The New Paper on Thursday, Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin said: "There needs to be some national identity (at the stadium) and football is a big part of it.

"There'll be national colours around the stadium, player posters, even details to be installed in the dressing room - sportsmen need to be proud that they're there, at a place that has history and heritage. We're looking to put something coherent together, but the deal (with the Sports Hub) will be done in the next few days."

The current home of the Lions and the FAS is the 7,500-capacity Jalan Besar Stadium.

Football was a permanent fixture at the old National Stadium, a hallowed arena where names like Dollah Kassim, Quah Kim Song, Fandi Ahmad and V Sundramoorthy wowed Singaporeans, both young and old, and of every hue and creed.

It was the birthplace of the fabled Kallang Roar, and Zainudin believes ensuring the national team play regularly at the new stadium is vital to resurrecting a similar connection between the Lions and the country.

HOME ADVANTAGE

The FAS deal with the Sports Hub will see the Lions to train and play at the National Stadium regularly enough for it to provide a genuine home-ground advantage.

"This will be our pitch and we'll need the home advantage, and that means being able to train and get familiar with the pitch," said Zainudin, who was speaking on the sidelines of a press conference announcing the confirmed line-up of events at the Sports Hub for 2014.

"The Sports Hub is a business entity, but it also has a community role... we have to ensure that for us, we get the best deal that makes playing there viable."

Zainudin declined to reveal any more details of the proposed deal with the Singapore Sports Hub.

The first piece of action for the Lions will kick off on the eve of the nation's birthday, when Singapore take on arch-rivals Malaysia in the Causeway Challenge on Aug 8.

The stadium is likely to host one of the trio of Spain, Japan or Juventus in the lead-up to the AFF Suzuki Cup that will be co-hosted here in the last two months of 2014, while the other two teams will come to Singapore next year.

"There will be three matches - one will happen before the AFF Suzuki Cup and two will come after," said Zainudin.

He declined to confirm if Spain, Japan and Juventus will be the sides playing here, only saying that talks were at an advanced stage with the relevant parties.

While the National Stadium will host the marquee events on Singapore's football calendar, the Jalan Besar Stadium will still play a significant role in local football.

"Jalan Besar will remain relevant to football, because S.League games will continue to be hosted there, while the FAS headquarters will also stay there," said Zainudin.

"The National Stadium will be the home of the Lions but, because of its history, Jalan Besar will still be the home of football."

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