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Sazali Abdul Aziz
Saturday, Oct 25, 2014

Sports

Football: Bishan as back-up?

The New Paper | Sazali Abdul Aziz | Saturday, Oct 25, 2014

RIVALS: Thailand (in red) and Malaysia, who faced each other in the semi-finals of the Suzuki Cup two years ago (left), insist on playing on a grass surface at this year’s tournament, scheduled to be held in Singapore.

SINGAPORE - Don't be surprised if the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup goes into Singapore's heartland.

A day after news that a high-profile rugby exhibition match slated to be played at the 55,000-seater National Stadium has been postponed in a bid to improve the quality of the pitch, The New Paper understands that Choa Chu Kang Stadium and Bishan Stadium are being considered as a possible additional venue for some games in the biennial tournament.

Singapore will co-host the tournament, from Nov 22 to Dec 20, with Vietnam.

The Republic are the reigning champions and will host matches in Group B, which also includes Thailand, Malaysia and former Lions coach Radojko Avramovic's Myanmar.

The original plan was for all the group games, bar the final one which has to be played simultaneously, to be staged at the National Stadium.

But the state of the stadium's Desso pitch - a combination of synthetic turf and natural grass - at the domed stadium at Kallang has caused much consternation.

Conspicuous sandy patches could be seen during the first football match played there, featuring Italian champions Juventus and a Singapore Selection side on Aug 16, and again when Brazil took on Japan in a glamour international friendly last week.

AFF bigwigs met with Singapore SportsHub Pte Ltd (SHPL) and Sport Singapore officials yesterday week, and sources tell TNP that one of the ideas mooted in the hour-long discussion was to play the games which do not feature the Lions, away from the National Stadium.

Initially, the 7,500-seater Jalan Besar Stadium was put forward as the first-choice alternative, but it is understood both Malaysia and Thailand are not keen on the venue's artificial surface, preferring natural grass instead.

That's why Choa Chu Kang Stadium and Bishan Stadium - homes of S.League sides Warriors FC and Home United respectively - have been mooted as potential venues.

TNP understands that Bishan is thought to be the more likely of the two venues to get the nod.

The 4,200-seater hosted track and field events at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, and was given a multi-million dollar revamp of its facilities ahead of the competition.

It has also hosted some of Singapore's "A" international games, such as against Oman in Jan 2010, as well as Home's continental AFC Cup games.

Lions skipper Shahril Ishak said the mooted arrangement, which would see Singapore play all three of their Group B games at the National Stadium, would benefit the reigning Suzuki Cup champions.

The hosts

"We are the hosts, so it is only right we get to play all our games at the National Stadium," said the attacking midfielder.

"I don't know what effect it will have for the other teams in our group to play at another venue but, speaking for us, it's a boost to play all our games at Kallang.

"Having thousands of fans behind you when you play is always a big motivation."

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