Football: Clubs' practice plea fails before Community Shield

Coaches and officials say players will benefit from a short training session on the National Stadium field to get used to its texture and dimensions, as well as the atmosphere.
Coaches and officials say players will benefit from a short training session on the National Stadium field to get used to its texture and dimensions, as well as the atmosphere.ST FILE PHOTO

Albirex & Tampines can't train on Kallang stadium pitch before Community Shield

It is set to be a night to showcase their football skills under the iconic dome - the first time an S-League encounter will take place under the new National Stadium's floodlights.

But quadruple champions Albirex Niigata and league runners-up Tampines Rovers, who will contest Sunday's Community Shield, are disappointed that they will not be training at Kallang ahead of the season opener.

Albirex general manager Koh Mui Tee said: "If possible, we would like to train there (at the National Stadium) but we also understand that the Sports Hub is trying to maintain a good pitch.

"We will respect their wishes."

EVERY FIELD IS UNIQUE

Little details can make a difference. It would be good to train at the stadium to get used to the surface, to feel if the ball travels or bounces differently... The dimensions of the field can affect set pieces as well. And for the players, it would be good to be at the stadium to feel the atmosphere of a big stadium.

PHILIPPE AW, Hougang United coach, on why it is useful for players to train on the pitch prior to competitive games.

Stags vice-chairman Christopher Wong explained that a light training session would be useful in his team's preparations and it would not cause much damage to the turf.

He said: "We are not conducting rigorous activities on the field. The players will only be limbering up to have a feel of the different texture of the National Stadium pitch.

"Also, it would be good for the players to pass the ball around to get used to the different playing area. For AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Cup games, we are always allowed one training session at the match venue ahead of the game.

"We hope the Singapore Sports Hub can do the same too."

In previous editions of the Community Shield which were played at Jalan Besar Stadium, teams were allowed to train on its artificial pitch to let them adjust to the harder surface, which affects the bounce of the ball.

There is also a slight difference in the size of the pitches. While the National Stadium pitch measures 105m x 68m, similar to Albirex's home ground at the Jurong East Stadium, Tampines' pitch at the Jurong West Stadium is larger at 110m x 70m.

Hougang United coach Philippe Aw agrees that a training session at the match venue would be invaluable to a team's preparations.

He said: "As a coach and former player, little details can make a difference. It would be good to train at the stadium to get used to the surface, to feel if the ball travels or bounces differently.

"Albirex train on astro turf, so it will be a different experience for them when they play on the National Stadium's grass.

"The dimensions of the field can affect set pieces as well. And for the players, it would be good to be at the stadium to feel the atmosphere of a big stadium."

The Community Shield, which is also the season's curtain-raiser, typically pits the previous year's S-League champions against the Singapore Cup winners. However, Albirex swept all four titles (with the addition of the shield and League Cup) on offer last year.

Chin Sau Ho, the Sports Hub's senior director for corporate communications and stakeholder management, told The Straits Times that a compromise is being sought to offer the teams a chance to familiarise themselves with the pitch and walk on it.

He said: "As a multi-purpose stadium, the National Stadium hosts both sporting and non-sporting community events, some of which require the grass pitch to be removed; this was removed in early January in sync with the event line-up at the National Stadium.

"Following the last event which ended this past Sunday, the pitch is currently being installed and prepared for the Great Eastern Community Shield.

"We understand from FAS (Football Association of Singapore) that ahead of the Great Eastern Community Shield, a familiarisation session for the teams is being planned at the National Stadium, as are training sessions scheduled at Geylang (Field)."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2017, with the headline 'Clubs' practice plea fails'. Print Edition | Subscribe