Worsening haze to lay waste to football fixtures

A record high PSI level on Wednesday with conditions hitting hazardous levels meant a League Cup tie became the first fixture casualty with more likely to follow in coming days

The current worsening haze condition in Singapore led to the postponement of Wednesday night's S.League League Cup match and also forced changes in training plans for clubs but more postponements are expected including for the much-anticipated Malaysian Super League match between Johor Darul Takzin and LionsXII with the conditions looking likely to remain grim.

The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) soared above level 300 to Hazardous levels late Wednesday night but the evening's level of 161 was enough to lead to the cancellation of the StarHub League Cup semi-final match between Albirex Niigata (S) and Balestier Khalsa at the Jurong East Stadium.

Kick-off was initially pushed back to 8pm from its original schedule of 730pm but upon further consultation from all parties, match commissioner Mohd Izmil decided to call-off the match. 

Both sides acknowledged that it was a good decision to postpone the match in light of the health hazard posed by the haze. 

“It is a sensible decision and the safety of the players is very important; we can’t compromise their health but luckily it has not affected out training,” said Balestier coach Darren Stewart.

“We have no choice and the whole of Singapore is suffering and football is part of this country, and we have to suffer along,” added Albirex team manager Koh Mui Tee.

“Of course we had to scale down the intensity of outdoor training and the haze was bad yesterday (June 18) and now we have had to cancel this match.

“What can we do but only blame those in Indonesia who are responsible for causing this haze.” 

Goal understands that all clubs have been briefed by S.League management with regards to the haze situation and all senior matches will have to be called-off should the PSI level reach above level 150.

As for Prime League and age-group matches, a PSI level of 100 will be deemed hazardous for the matches to be played. 

Dr Wong Wee Nam, general practitioner from Wong Clinic and Surgery feels that all footballers and its coaching staff should adhere to the guidelines provided by the S.League as the haze situation is not something to be taken lightly.

“Please follow FAS guidelines and do not continue training when the haze is bad or you become breathless,” said Dr Wong.

“Be reminded not to exert yourselves when you have flu or asthma. Long exposure to haze, like smoking, irritates the respiratory system and can result in chronic lung problems.”

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishan announced at a hastily arranged press conference on Wednesday night that a a taskforce of 23 agencies has been convened to draw up contingency plans over the situation.

Sports institutions and schools may be closed if the situation persists and the Ministry of Manpower might follow suit by issuing stop-work orders.

Dr Balakrishnan also added that the conditions are expected to worsen with the PSI level staying above 200 with numerous hotspots in Sumatra still unattended and a lack of rain and wind only expected to fruther aggravate the situation.

He also added that a delegation will be visiting Jakarta for an emergency haze meeting, saying: “This is a crisis but I’m confident we can survive this; we are going to overcome this problem by working very hard with the Indonesians and get them to do the right thing.”

The rescheduled semifinal clash between the White Swans and the Tigers will now be played on June 20 at the same venue with the Woodlands Wellington and DPMM match also taking place the same night at Woodlands Stadium.

The Malaysian Super League is also set to resume for the LionsXII as they take on Fandi Ahmad's Johor Darul Takzim at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday, June 22.

All fixtures are subject to weather conditions and announcements on the status of the matches will be made closer to kick-off.