Sat, Oct 11, 2014 - Page 18 News List

Brazil’s Samba Boys set to play on Singaporean sand

Reuters, SINGAPORE

Spectators watch an international rugby 10s tournament at the new National Stadium in Singapore on June 21.

Photo: AFP

Singapore’s plan to boost its international profile by staging a glamor soccer friendly between Brazil and Japan could backfire due to the appalling state of the playing surface at the centerpiece of the city-state’s US$1 billion Sports Hub.

A sellout crowd is expected at the 55,000-seat retractable roof National Stadium to watch the five-time world champions play the Asian Cup winners on Tuesday.

Locals 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 pitch seemed to have as much sand on it as grass, and it 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 soccer match at the new stadium in August when they beat a Singapore select XI 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 fibers, 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 minimize 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 pitch where rugby posts were placed for the stadium’s first event, an international 10s tournament in June.

The FAS will host some matches for the Suzuki Cup, Southeast Asia’s soccer championships, next month and in December, but the regional body has also voiced its fears about the pitch.

“We... share the ASEAN Football Federation’s 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 endeavor, the FAS has opted not to schedule any home international A friendlies at the National Stadium and is prepared to forgo all of the Lions’ training sessions at the National Stadium in the lead-up to the Suzuki Cup.”

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