By Teng Kiat
When the list of sporting events for the new National Stadium at the Sports Hub was revealed last Thursday, some might have wondered why football was not the first on the list.
The rugby World Cup 10s in June is scheduled to be the first major event to be held at the new sporting venue, which will open in stages from April onwards, with the Singapore and Malaysia football teams taking on each other on August 8.
But Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin says that it is all about the 55,000-seater stadium being ready for the first game, which he is confident will happen.
"It’s not just about who's first or who's last," he told Goal. "In any event at any new location, there will always be teething problems, feedback, improvements. The stadium is a big project, it would take time before you are able to do a 55,000-person event. We need to have all of this [other events] at the stadium and I think the run-in will allow for the build-up, and the build-up will allow for the connection and improvements before we can get the actual 55,000 in. By then (August 8), I think it will be just nice, that is my view and my confidence."
Apart from the National Stadium being the home for Singapore's entrant for the Asean Super League (ASL) and national team, Zainudin also mentioned that the LionsXII could play at the new venue, amongst other events, if possible.
"If the fans' momentum is so good for the LionsXII, we can also consider," he said.
"I would say this is a fantasy sporting venue, we would like to play with as many fans as possible, wherever it’s possible, so it’s not just about the national team, the ASL team. It’s about being realistic; if there are events in my view that are able to attract fans and there is enough reason for us to assess, we will do it. It’s about the fans, about entertaining and bringing value and not just about choosing venue randomly. We always want to bring the athletes into the stadium and the players would love to play in front of thousands of fans."
Fan support is also something that Zainudin hopes will help Singapore break its gold medal drought when the SEA Games comes around next year, with the nation's best achievement being a silver medal.
"It’s never easy to quantify the local and home advantage but I think it will be a good advantage, let us make use of it and make sure we use it to our best results," he asserted.
Zainudin also revealed that there are plans to bring in top-class opposition for friendlies within the end of this year, while he also expects updates on the ASL soon.
"I know the AFF is going to have their meeting and congress soon and, just like what happened in Kuantan [at the AFF meeting last year], where there was a major announcement, this year I won’t be surprised if some new announcements will be made," he said.