Thailand-Australia football clash may be moved to Singapore

World Cup qualifier could be held at neutral venue or played away during mourning

Following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Thursday, Thailand's football scene has been halted as the kingdom mourns.

With the nation in a sombre mood, Thailand's World Cup qualifying third-round group match against Australia on Nov 15, which is slated to be held in Bangkok's Rajamangala Stadium, could be played in Singapore instead after the Thai government urged its people to refrain from any entertainment activities for 30 days as part of a one-year mourning period.

The Football Association of Thailand (FAT) had proposed switching the tie to an away fixture in Australia, or to hold the match at a neutral venue, which could be either Singapore or Myanmar.

The Singapore Sports Hub confirmed that it has been approached by the FAT. It has also given the assurance that the National Stadium pitch will be ready despite the short turnaround time - three days - after the England v Germany Masters football match on Nov 12.

Chin Sau Ho, senior director of corporate communications and stakeholder management, said: "They have indicated their interest in the National Stadium in Singapore as a possible venue for the match and are considering various factors including travel and logistics.

"We are honoured to be considered and happy to host the match at the National Stadium."

Iraq's Saad Abdulameer closing in on Thailand's Chanathip Songkrasin during their World Cup qualifier in Teheran last Tuesday. Thailand have lost all four games so far and their chances of making the 2018 Finals in Russia are slim.
Iraq's Saad Abdulameer closing in on Thailand's Chanathip Songkrasin during their World Cup qualifier in Teheran last Tuesday. Thailand have lost all four games so far and their chances of making the 2018 Finals in Russia are slim. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Whether the War Elephants and the Socceroos will battle it out at Kallang will be clearer on Monday, after the Thai government yesterday updated its guidelines on activities allowed during the mourning period, which could allow football matches to carry on.

FAT deputy general secretary Patit Supapong told The Sunday Times: "Today, the government clarified to the media that the restriction of entertainment will be restricted only to concerts. Domestic football can go on.

"We will be having a meeting on Monday to discuss and arrive at a conclusion on whether we will hold the match on home ground."

The resumption of football matches in the Land of Smiles would be good news for Army United goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, who is the only Singaporean playing in the Thai Premier League (TPL).

On Friday, a day after the King's death, the TPL brought a premature end to its season with three matches left, relegating Army United to Division 1 next season.

Patit said: "We'll need to discuss how to organise the football matches most appropriately during this mourning phase.

"For example, last week when we played in Teheran, Iran (for the World Cup qualifier against Iraq), due to a religious event (Tassoua), some musical instruments were not allowed to be played.

"So we have to be flexible and take reference to the guidelines from the government."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 16, 2016, with the headline 'Thai-Aussie clash may be moved here'. Print Edition | Subscribe