Football: Stags homecoming worth the wait

Hazwan Hamzah of DPMM (left) sends Tampines' Hafiz Sujad tumbling. The Stags won 2-0 in their first game back at their old home ground since 2011.
Hazwan Hamzah of DPMM (left) sends Tampines' Hafiz Sujad tumbling. The Stags won 2-0 in their first game back at their old home ground since 2011.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

4,676 fans turn up for a Rovers match at Our Tampines Hub after a six-year absence

After six years, Tampines Rovers have finally gone back to their old home ground.

Last night, the S-League football club made their much-anticipated return to their refurbished home ground, now dubbed Our Tampines Hub, and a crowd of 4,676 in the 5,000-capacity stadium saw the Stags beat Brunei DPMM 2-0 with goals from defender Shakir Hamzah and playmaker Shahdan Sulaiman.

For the team, it marked the end of a six-year spell in which they were based in the western part of Singapore - at Clementi Stadium (2012-2014) and at Jurong West Stadium (2014 to this year).

While the players are impressed by the multi-purpose complex which also houses swimming pools, a library and a retail mall, they added that they need more time to get used to the new artificial pitch .

Korean midfielder Son Yong Chan, 26, said: "It's quite different from Jalan Besar Stadium's pitch.

"It's more difficult to dribble the ball and I've got to be more careful when I move."

Centre-back Madhu Mohana, 26, added: "It's much better than playing in Jurong West, where the pitch could get soggy. But over here, it needs to be watered.

"The atmosphere was great and to see so many people turn up, we were hyped up too."

Captain and veteran Fahrudin Mustafic, 36, who has played at the old Tampines Stadium, put it simply: "I like it that we are back home."

For Tampines' supporters, they are relieved that they no longer have to travel all the way to Jurong West Stadium to cheer for their team.

Ngee Ann Secondary student Bryan Sim, 14, is glad that instead of having to travel an hour to Jurong, watching his favourite team is now a five-minute bus ride away from his home in Simei.

He said: "I used to take the MRT there by myself and then take a taxi back home after the game. But now, it's much easier for me to come down to watch the matches."

The excitement was in the air as many fans, including families with young children, turned up in yellow for the homecoming. Admission was free for this match.

Polytechnic lecturer Jeffrey Xu brought his three-year-old son to the game. Ahead of watching his first S-League game since the late 1990s, the 35-year-old said: "I wanted my son to feel the same atmosphere I had felt in those days when I used to stand just behind the signboards at the old Tampines Stadium."

With the Stags challenging for the S-League title, fans hope to see quality football that befits the dazzling new Hub.

Engineer Sharil Amir, 40, said: "I hope to see the standard of football improving, more attacking football.

"Now that we have the nice infrastructure, it's now time to step up the game to a higher level. Most importantly, it's the quality of football that matters."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2017, with the headline 'Stags homecoming well worth the wait'. Print Edition | Subscribe