Maligned Singapore pitch set for Suzuki Cup – official

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SINGAPORE, Singapore : (FILES) This file photo taken on May 21, 2014 shows a worker walking on the pitch inside the new National stadium at the sports hub complex in Singapore. Singapore's new National Stadium suffered fresh embarrassment on October 21, 2014 when the Maori All Blacks scrapped their November 15 match against Asia Pacific Dragons over the poor state of its pitch. AFP PHOTO / ROSLAN RAHMAN
SINGAPORE, Singapore : (FILES) This file photo taken on May 21, 2014 shows a worker walking on the pitch inside the new National stadium at the sports hub complex in Singapore. Singapore’s new National Stadium suffered fresh embarrassment on October 21, 2014 when the Maori All Blacks scrapped their November 15 match against Asia Pacific Dragons over the poor state of its pitch. AFP PHOTO / ROSLAN RAHMAN

SINGAPORE, October 30, 2014 (AFP) – Singapore’s new National Stadium will host AFF Suzuki Cup matches next month, officials insisted Thursday, despite lingering concerns about the poor state of the pitch.

The surface at the 55,000-seat stadium — part of a $1 billion Sports Hub complex which opened its doors in June — has been widely criticised, with Brazil coach Dunga complaining recently that “most of it is sand”.

In a bid to give the grass a chance to grow in time for Southeast Asia’s top football tournament, which begins on November 22, a Maori All Blacks rugby fixture was scrapped earlier this month and a concert pushed back.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said late Thursday it will be ready to host the national side’s three matches in the group stages of the tournament.

“We are grateful to the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) for their approval to host the Suzuki Cup in Singapore, and to the Singapore Sports Hub for doing their best in ensuring optimal playing conditions for our group stage matches,” FAS president Zainudin Nordin said in a statement.

The announcement should end speculation that the AFF was considering seeking a last-minute alternative venue.

Singapore’s second biggest stadium, the 8,000-seater Jalan Besar arena, will host three other matches scheduled to be played in the city-state.

Singapore is co-hosting the eight-nation AFF Suzuki Cup with Vietnam.

SportsHub manages the new stadium. Its chief operating officer Oon Jin Teik said efforts are continuing to “optimise pitch recovery before the first game” there, on November 23.

The company is using special lighting equipment that hovers a metre above the ground and is switched on at night to provide additional light for the grass to grow faster.

Under a public-private partnership, SportsHub has the rights to manage and run the National Stadium for a period of 25 years during which the government will pay it an annual fee.

But local sports authorities earlier this month threatened to withhold funding after the abysmal state of the pitch came into focus when it hosted Brazil’s 4-0 friendly win over Japan on October 14.

Apart from Singapore and Vietnam, the biennial AFF Suzuki Cup will also feature Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos.

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