As the Tampines Rovers triumphed over Selangor 1 – 0, qualifying them for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup round of 16, problems were raised over the National Stadium turf where they played their winning game on.
Majority of the complaints were that the turf was slippery, making it tough of players to maintain their footing. Patches of the turf appeared to be sandy.
“The pitch was slippery and bumpy, and we had to take an extra touch to bring the ball under control,” Tampines Rovers captain Fahrudin Mustafic said.
Overall, while his team praised the 55,000-seat stadium where 11,875 fans cheered them on for Monday’s match, they expressed concern about the condition of the pitch.
Stags winger Jermaine Pennant also echoed the sentiments of the Tampines players. “When you grip into it and turn, it moves and slides. It’s very sandy,” he said.
On the other hand, striker Billy Mehmet, who played for Malaysian states Kedah and Sarawak, stated that the condition of the pitch was not a surprise, and that such sandy turfs were common for him to be playing on in Malaysia.
“It was tough and sandy, but I was focused on the game, so the condition of the pitch didn’t matter for me,” he said. “I’m used to playing on such surfaces in Malaysia, and the conditions were the same for both teams so it was fair.”
The National Stadium has a Desso GrassMaster which cost around S$800,000 to install in 2014, where 100 per cent natural grass was injected with artificial protective fibres 18 cm into the ground.
While this reinforced grass was intended to give rise to higher cost-savings in the long run, the grass was initially unable to grow properly because of insufficient sunlight supplied due to the National Stadium’s dome shaped roof.
It was only after growth lights amounting to more than $2 million and a “lay-and-play” surface with warm weather grass were installed by the Sports Hub that the reinforced grass began to grow normally.
Yet, the sandy patches still reappeared, which caused players to slip and lose their footing during the recent game.
“If we play on this pitch again, hopefully they can put out a better surface,” Mr Pennant said.