BY NICK MEASURES
The poor condition of the National Stadium pitch continues to threaten Singapore’s chances of hosting the upcoming Suzuki Cup next month, after the Asian Football Federation (AFF) confirmed they would be making a decision on its readiness next week.
The latest statement comes after the Brazil versus Japan friendly, which led to further questions over the suitability of the pitch to host a major football tournament. While Brazil made light of the conditions to secure a comfortable win, courtesy of a four goal master class by Barcelona striker Neymar (link to match report), the patchy state of the pitch drew criticism from numerous quarters, including the Selecao manager Dunga who felt it had prevented his team putting on a more beautiful display.
The issues were clear to everyone inside the stadium. On a patchy, bobbly surface, some passes looked more like bunker shots due to the accompanying spurts of sand and many of the players, especially the Brazilians, certainly looked unhappy about going to ground. The issues were further underlined at half time when the sprinklers had to be turned on and a team of ground staff took to the pitch for emergency repair work.
Dunga is not alone in voicing his unhappiness with the surface and his comments follow similar complaints by the Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri when his team visited for a pre-season friendly in August. In a bid to ensure the pitch is fit for the Suzuki Cup in November the Singapore FA has already agreed that the national team will not play any friendlies or carry out any training sessions before the tournament kicks off on 23rd November.
After the Brazil game the AFF met with the Singapore Sports Hub in a bid to find a solution to the pitch and in the statement confirmed they will be making a decision by next week. The pitch uses the same state of the art Desso GrassMaster system as Wembley Stadium in the UK. It cost an estimated SG$ 800,000 and combines artificial fibres with natural grass in a bid to ensure a more durable playing surface.