Suzuki Cup: Lions to play in National Stadium

All three of the Singapore national football team's matches at the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup are set to proceed in the new National Stadium, despite concerns over the state of the grass pitch.

The Straits Times has learnt that the AFF will announce tomorrow that the Lions' Group B matches in the biennial regional tournament against Thailand (Nov 23), Myanmar (Nov 26) and Malaysia (Nov 29) will go ahead as planned, after the SportsHub (SHPL) gave the assurance that the National Stadium field would be ready for the opening game.

However, the other Group B fixtures - Malaysia vs Myanmar (Nov 23), Malaysia vs Thailand (Nov 26) and Thailand vs Myanmar (Nov 29) - are likely to take place in Jalan Besar Stadium.

Although Malaysia national football coach Dollah Salleh had earlier expressed his preference to play on natural grass pitches such as those in Bishan and Choa Chu Kang stadiums, the AFF felt Jalan Besar's artificial surface is good enough because it is approved by Fifa - football's world governing body - and the Asian Football Confederation.

The National Stadium has taken heavy flak for its sandy pitch, as its hybrid system of natural grass reinforced with artificial fibre inserts has not been growing as anticipated.

SHPL has postponed Taiwanese singer Jay Chou's concert from Nov 8 to Dec 27.

A friendly rugby match between the Maori All Blacks and the Asia Pacific Dragons scheduled for Nov 15 was also cancelled.

The AFF has reportedly engaged Japanese turf expert Hiroi Koichi to inspect the pitch in Kallang tomorrow.

meng@sph.com.sg