Football: Lions not playing quality opponents as National Stadium is not ready - Stange

As Singapore's national football team prepare to meet Guam in a friendly on Tuesday night, Lions coach Bernd Stange came out refuting criticism that he has been unable to arrange quality opponents to play his team.

The German instead pointed to the National Stadium, which has been plagued by issues with its grass pitch, as the reason why it has been difficult to get top teams to play in Singapore.

He said on Monday: "All my promises I gave to bring teams over with my personal contacts, to speak with (Carlos) Queiroz (Iran national team coach) , Fabio Capello (Russia national coach) and others are dependant on a ready Sports Hub (National Stadium)."

"As long as the Sports Hub is not ready, we cannot attract big teams because coaches, colleagues and friends refuse to play there.

"My promises are dependent on the availability of the Sports Hub."

In contrast, Malaysia lost 6-0 to Oman last Thursday while Thailand meet African powerhouse Cameroon on Monday evening in Bangkok as both Asean neighbours seek to polish their skills against higher-calibre opponents.

In response to Stange's comments, the Sports Hub is looking forward to hearing the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) future plans for matches to be held at the 55,000 seater stadium.

The Sports Hub's senior director for corporate communications and stakeholder management, Jose Raymond, said: "Fifa dates have been confirmed for the next three years till 2017. We have been engaging the FAS and we look forward to hearing their plans, and in working with them to bring world-class international football teams to the National Stadium for the benefit of our football fans."

Raymond also added that the National Stadium will soon have a quality playing surface, saying: "The Singapore Sports Hub has announced a natural turf 'lay and play solution' which will be implemented at the National Stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub.

"Work has been ongoing and has been progressing very well, and will be implemented in time for the SEA Games in June. The semi-finals and the finals of the football event for the SEA Games will be held at the National Stadium.

"The Barclays Asia Trophy which will be held for the first time in Singapore, will involve top English Premiership sides Arsenal, Everton and Stoke City at the National Stadium in July (15 and 18). We look forward to having these world class teams play at the National Stadium."

The 'lay and play' system involves a base layer of artificial turf for the National Stadium. For events that requires grass, natural turf will be cut at an off-site nursery and then transported in rolls to the stadium, where it will be laid on top of the artificial turf.

Singapore are currently jointly-ranked 153rd in the world, alongside Malaysia and Myanmar, by Fifa while Guam is ranked 167th. Tuesday's game will be played on Jalan Besar Stadium's artificial surface.

Tuesday's friendly against the Pacific island is a far cry from what Stange had promised. Since his appointment in May 2013, Stange made no secret that he has a network of contacts in Europe, which includes top coaching names like Fabio Capello, Laurent Blanc and Carlos Queiroz.

Instead, seven of the eight wins recorded by the former East Germany and Belarus national coach came against Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. The only notable big scalp Stange claimed in his reign so far was a 2-1 Asian Cup qualifying win over Syria.

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