Friday, July 22, 2011
When There Is No Plan B
Singapore prides itself on being a slick, efficient country where everythng works on time and there are no surprises. Maybe, but not in football.
Two or three years ago the National Stadium was scheduled to close while they built a glorious new hub, Singapore as well as Malaysia and Thailand call everything a hub. to carry football forward into the 32nd Century.
A Brazilian Olympic team was brought in and the game was marketed as the last farewell for the locally famous and internationally unknown Kallang Roar.
Then came the financial crisis and demolition of the National Stadium was postponed ad infinitum. Liverpool came, played in front of a big crowd. They played Thailand in front of 22,000, Vietnam in front of 48,000. Singaporean fans would turn up if they felt there was enough prestige attached to the game.
Finally it was decided to knock down the National Stadium. Now the problem with Singapore is that they hate sports in their own country. The next biggest stadium was Jalan Besar which holds about 6,000. The National Stadium held 60,000. While the new 'hub' was being built Singapore didn't have a stadium worthy of the name to host any big teams. Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea all made it to KL, up the road in Malaysia, but none of them considered Singapore because the country that made its name on being in the right place for the world's trade couldn't provide adequate sporting facilities for its people.
We now have the nonsense of Singapore hosting Malaysia in a World Cup Qualifier...and they lack a decent stadium! They could have used Larkin Stadium in Johor Bahru, just across the causeway in Malaysia. That probably holds about 25-30,000, enough for this fixture. But national pride is at stake. Why let people watch a game of football when it means the people who run the game would lose massive face because they can't hold it in their own country?
Instead Singapore will play at the game at Jalan Besar, a stadium which has a swimming pool behind one goal and a car park behind the other. Oh, and artificial grass.
Tickets went on sale earlier in the week and the FA announced that they would be only available to Singaporeans and as a thank you for their loyalty they could buy a maximum of four tickets each! Loyalty? Is soneone here havin' a Steffi? Singaporeans don't go to SLeague games, they won't pay the $5 to get in. They think the game in Singapore is shite and they think the players are thugs.
All of a sudden Singaporeans were queuing overnight for tickets at $18 a pop!Within hours the sold out notices had gone up and a few fans were left feeling disgruntled at having missed out. Even though they actually attend SLeague games...
It's a crying indictment of the city state's attitude to sport that we are left to witness what should be a cracking game in such a tiny stadium; that there was no alternative available because the priority is more expensive condominiums and malls.
Here's hoping the 4,000 tickets that were quickly snapped up find their way into the hands of supporters who fill the stadium and raise the roof and not touts hoping for a quick buck.
It's gonna be a great occasion despite the worst efforts of the authorities and the players of both sides deserve the raucous support of their followers.