Brazil's Samba Boys set for Singapore sand
10 October 2014, 08:19
Singapore - Singapore's plan to boost its international profile by staging a glamour football friendly between Brazil and Japan could backfire due to the appalling state of the playing surface at the centrepiece of the city-state's $1 billion Sports Hub.
A sell-out crowd is expected at the 55,000-seat retractable roof National Stadium to watch the five-times world champions play the Asian Cup winners on Tuesday.
Local are eager to catch a glimpse of the likes of Neymar, Kaka, Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa but whether the quartet will be risked on the patchy surface is another matter.
The field seemed to have as much sand on it as grass and was cut up in several areas when Reuters viewed it this week.
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) acknowledged the poor surface but declared it fit for use late on Thursday.
"We are of the view that the pitch is playable and the game can proceed if the match commissioner and teams agree," the FAS said in a statement.
"However, we are also of the opinion that the condition of the field is far short of expected international playing standards, which could affect the standard of play."
Italian champions Juventus played the first football match at the new stadium in August when they beat a Singapore selection 5-0 but the Turin club did not hold back in their criticism of the surface.
Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri said after the match he had not selected first choice players Carlos Tevez or Arturo Vidal "to avoid pointless risks because the pitch was bad."
The hybrid pitch, made from natural grass and reinforced by millions of artificial turf fibres, had improved after the Juventus fixture with promoters confident all would be well for the Brazil v Japan friendly.
However, the surface seems to have suffered due to the number of public events it has been expected to stage.
Last month, a protective covering was put over the pitch to minimise the effects of 20,000 runners trampling the grass in various races at the National Stadium.
And scars are still visible at both ends of the field where rugby goalposts were placed for the stadium's first event, an international 10s tournament in June.
The stadium also hosted a school rugby tournament in August, with coaches complaining about sand kicking up in the eyes of the players and amid fears of a slippery surface causing injury.
Also read: UEFA not keen on Premier League expansion
The FAS will host some matches for the Suzuki Cup, Southeast Asia's soccer championships, in November and December but the regional body has also voiced its fears about the pitch.
"We ... share the ASEAN Football Federation's (AFF) concerns about the readiness of the venue for the upcoming AFF Suzuki Cup," the FAS said.
"The FAS is supportive of the Sports Hub's ongoing efforts to ensure a good playing surface.
"To assist in this endeavour, the FAS has opted not to schedule any home international 'A' friendlies at the National Stadium, and is prepared to forego all of the Lions' training sessions at the National Stadium in the lead-up to the Suzuki Cup even though this will have an impact on home ground advantage."
Singapore, ranked 149 in the world by FIFA, have yet to play a soccer match on their new home pitch. They play friendly matches in Hong Kong on Friday and Macau on Tuesday.