Football: Stags to host AFC Cup game at the National Stadium

Tampines Rovers will be staging their forthcoming Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup game against Selangor at the National Stadium.
Tampines Rovers will be staging their forthcoming Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup game against Selangor at the National Stadium. PHOTO: ST FILE

From signing the S-League's highest-profile footballer to date to gunning for silverware on four fronts, football club Tampines Rovers have dialled their ambitions up another notch by staging their forthcoming Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup game against Selangor at the National Stadium.

Originally scheduled to be held at the Jalan Besar Stadium, the Stags will now stage the Group E fixture on May 10 under the floodlights of the 55,000-seater ground at Kallang, which has already been approved by AFC, the sport's continental ruling body.

Tampines chairman Krishna Ramachandra said: "I am truly ecstatic about this - Not only because we have this great event but because it was truly a fantastic team effort involving the Sports Hub, the FAS (Football Association of Singapore), Sport Singapore and ourselves.

"It could not have happened otherwise. FAS, in particular, must be given credit for stepping up to own this as a national football project."

The Stags currently top the four-team Group E with seven points from three matches. Selangor are third with four points. The top two finishers will advance to the round of 16.

UNITED AS ONE

I want this match to be labelled and promoted as Singapore v Selangor. It's about national pride given that Tampines has a good proportion of the national squad players.

KRISHNA RAMACHANDRA, Tampines chairman, on staging the AFC Cup clash with Selangor at the National Stadium.

The match against Selangor will be Tampines' final fixture for the group and the club will want a rousing atmosphere as a boost to their target of lifting the AFC Cup, currently held by Malaysian Super League side Johor Darul Takzim.

For Ramachandra, who was appointed chairman at the end of last season, hosting the AFC Cup match at the National Stadium is a way to bring the crowd back and revitalise the local football scene.

Already, he broke the bank to sign former Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant for a record $40,000 monthly salary. The 32-year-old has settled well so far.

Last month, the Stags also announced ex-Reds manager Gerard Houllier as their ambassador. The Frenchman will advise the club on areas like youth development.

In December, Brazilian star Ronaldinho hopped on board to set up an academy with the club.

Ramachandra said: "Frankly for Leon (Yee, Tampines vice-chairman) and I, the result on the match day is found before kick-off.

"We want to see the National Stadium filled with Singapore football fans.

"For us, it is not about Tampines Rovers, it is about how we win back the trust of the fans.

"I want this match to be labelled and promoted as Singapore v Selangor. It's about national pride given that Tampines has a good proportion of the national squad players."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2016, with the headline 'Stags to host AFC Cup game at the National Stadium'. Print Edition | Subscribe