Stags-Selangor may be at Hub

Tampines Rovers celebrating their win against Hougang United at the Jurong West Stadium, on Feb 26, 2016.
Tampines Rovers celebrating their win against Hougang United at the Jurong West Stadium, on Feb 26, 2016. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Tampines want final AFC Cup group game at Kallang to revive Singapore-Malaysia rivalry

Tampines Rovers could become the first local football club to play a competitive fixture at the National Stadium since it reopened in June 2014.

The Sunday Times understands that discussions have begun between Sport Singapore, the Singapore Sports Hub and Tampines about possibly staging the Stags' Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup match against defending Malaysia Cup champions Selangor at the 55,000-seater venue.

The match, scheduled for May 10 at the Jalan Besar Stadium, is Tampines' last game of the AFC Cup group stage. However, any switch will have to be approved by governing body, the AFC.

As of now, the National Stadium is available for hire for the period leading up to, and after, the match.

Responding to queries from ST, Sports Hub chief executive Manu Sawhney said: "We are always open to and welcome discussions on events that will add to the vibrancy at the Sports Hub."

ATTENDANCE BOOSTER

It will be a great barometer of the current level of interest in the game. After all, it doesn't get any bigger than playing against perennial rivals Selangor.

KRISHNA RAMACHANDRA, Tampines chairman, on hosting the AFC Cup tie against defending Malaysia Cup champions Selangor at the National Stadium.

The last event at the National Stadium before May 10 is the Apr 16-17 HSBC World Rugby Singapore Sevens, while the next event after is the Super Rugby match between Japan's Sunwolves and South Africa's Stormers on May 14.

The time taken to switch the venue from football to rugby mode is approximately 48 hours.

Stags chairman Krishna Ramachandra said the idea was mooted on Friday, but that discussions are very much at a nascent phase.

He added: "I hope we can work something out with other parties concerned. It will be a great barometer of the current level of interest in the game. After all, it doesn't get any bigger than playing against perennial rivals Selangor.

"Football is an emotional game - fans' interest not only need to be piqued but also sustained."

Those involved hope to stoke memories of the fierce Singapore-Selangor rivalry in the 1970s and 80s, which were often titanic clashes featuring the likes of Fandi Ahmad, Samad Allapitchay, Mokhtar Dahari and Soh Chin Aun.

The Stags, boosted by star signing Jermaine Pennant, started the AFC group stage with a 4-0 win over Bangladeshi side Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi last Tuesday and top Group E with three points.

The five-time S-League champions have an average crowd of 2,400 at their three matches this season.

While hosting the match at a world-class facility would be a boost for local football, one area of concern for the organisers would be security.

Two years ago, fans of Malaysian team Johor Darul Takzim clashed with security officials at the Jalan Besar Stadium, which led to the arrest of five Malaysians.

Heightened security measures could be required if a large number of fans are expected, which could also mean higher costs for operators.

Kallang has hosted S-League clubs before, most notably in the league's inaugural season in 1996.

That year, a league-record 28,800 fans showed up at the National Stadium to watch Geylang take on Woodlands Wellington.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 28, 2016, with the headline 'Stags-Selangor may be at Hub'. Print Edition | Subscribe