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MILLION-DOLLAR MAKEOVER
Tue, Jan 06, 2009
The New Paper

YOU WOULD imagine that an artificial pitch would last a long time.

After all, a synthetic turf would be less susceptible to changing weather conditions - especially in Singapore's humid climate - than natural fields.

An artificial pitch's hardiness and durability would allow for more games to be played on it without increasing the maintenance bill.

And perhaps that is why it would come as a shock for some that the $1m artificial pitch at the Jalan Besar Stadium is being replaced, just three years after it was laid in the spiritual home of Singapore football.

The artificial turf replaced the stadium's natural grass field in late 2005 under the Fifa Goal Project, with part of the money coming from the international organisation's Goal Bureau.

The Fifa Goal Project was set up in 1999 to help countries develop infrastructure and training programmes.

And according to media reports on the artificial pitch's official launch in 2006, the new field was said to be able to last up to 10 years, and would not be damaged by rain or shine.

Even though the pitch can theoretically last that long, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has decided that it was an appropriate time to replace the pitch, given its heavy usage.

Overused

'Nearly every day, there are teams who either train or play on the turf,' said FAS spokesman Eric Ong.

'Jalan Besar Stadium is the home training and competition ground for the Young Lions, National Under-21 and National Football Academy Under-18 teams,' he added.

'Apart from the home matches of the Young Lions and U-18 team in the S-League and Prime League respectively, the 'live' S-League matches every Friday also take place here.'

The Jalan Besar Stadium pitch also hosts women's league and international games, football clinics, grassroots competitions as well as the semi-finals and finals of school football tournaments as well.

And since the stadium will host more international matches over the next few years, including the Asian Youth Games and Youth Olympic Games football competitions, the timing could not be more ideal, said Ong.

Furthermore, while synthetic turf is supposed to last longer, its shelf life depends on how frequent the turf is used as well.

'If an artificial pitch usage is once a week, it will last approximately 10 years whereas it will last approximately four to five years if used every day,' said Joanne Wong, marketing manager of Fico Sports.

The company runs Fico Sports Hub, a Jurong West commercial indoor football facility with artificially-turfed football courts.

By the end of this month, the Jalan Besar pitch will be replaced with a Fifa 2 Star Recommended artificial turf, the highest available grade of synthetic turf endorsed by the world organisation presently.

Jalan Besar's current turf is the Fifa 1 Star Recommended turf, a grade lower.

Who pays

So does the FAS have to fork its own money out this time to replace the pitch?

Ong said: 'The cost of laying the pitch, estimated to be around US$400,000 ($576,000), will be borne entirely by Fifa, as part of the second Goal Project.'

And for the professional footballers here, the change could not have come any earlier.

Some S-League players and officials feel that the pitch is not conducive for competitions.

'It is difficult to play on because the speed of the ball is fast and the ball bounces a lot more,' said Nazri Nasir, Tampines Rovers' director of football.

'Not only that, usually players take two or three days to recover from the aches as the impact is great,' he added.

'Just imagine doing shuttle runs repeatedly on concrete ground, after a while, you will feel pain in your joints because there is no cushion.'

But Home United's first team coach PN Sivaji believes the quality of the playing surface will continue to improve.

After all, the Luzhniki Stadium's pitch - where Russia beat England to qualify for Euro08 - is rated Fifa 2 Star Recommended, the same grade as the one Jalan Besar will be getting soon.

Sivaji said: 'Some of the national team boys came back from Vietnam saying that the artificial pitch they played on in the Vietnam training camp was really good.'

'Artificial pitches are a thing of the future. '

 

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