Singapore footballer says new Sports Hub is 'more about money' than sports

Fit To Post Sports
Workers maintain the pitch after a soccer training by Brazil's national team ahead of their friendly soccer match against Japan in Singapore October 13, 2014. The New Zealand Maori's non-cap rugby test against the invitational Asia Pacific Dragons in Singapore next month is in doubt as the hosts battle to repair a problematic pitch at their new National Stadium. The surface was laid in May but lacked an appropriate bedding period and has been re-seeded four times, staff said on Monday, as they try to cope with the demands of hosting so many different events in a tropical climate. The sandy pitch, with plenty of bare patches, will host Brazil in a soccer friendly against Asian Cup holders Japan on Tuesday, with organisers of the Southeast Asian soccer championships voicing concerns about Singapore's ability to part-stage their event in late November-early December. REUTERS/Edgar Su (SINGAPORE - Tags: SPORT SOCCER RUGBY)

“You’ve sold out, haven’t you? You’re more about money, moving in a direction I don’t understand. Honestly, I miss the old you,” said Singapore footballer Baihakki Khaizan in an Instagram post on Monday.

The 30-year-old national defender, a veteran member of the Lions team for over a decade, described Singapore's billion-dollar Sports Hub as “all fancy”, with “all the bells and whistles”. 

But he missed the old Kallang stadium, which was completely torn down in 2011 to make way for the new state-of-the-art Hub.

“I remember the plain you, and they are wonderful memories. We won championships on the platform you provided, I became a Lion on your lawn… You’re different now. And I’m not convinced by how you’re behaving now.”

Baihakki highlighted former Singapore sprinters C Kunalan and Glory Barnabas as well as retired discus thrower James Wong -- "all names that shine form our sporting past shone on your lap" -- who inspired the entire nation with their sporting achievements at the  old National Stadium.

"You don't seem to know your priorities anymore, and I don't see how new stars will be born in you again," before ending the post with the hashtags "#stadiumforconcerts" and "#$$$". 

The post attracted over 4,000 Likes and numerous comments agreeing with his sentiment.

An @eddierazak said, “If a football player, representing his nation is saying this… then something is wrong somewhere. Whatever you raised is exactly my sentiments bro.”

An Instagram screengrab of a post by Singapore footballer Baihakki Khaizan, expressing his opinions on the Singapore Sports Hub.

Another local footballer, Khairul Amri, also lashed out at the new stadium. In a Twitter post he said: "Yes, I like the new you.Yes, I don't mind waiting for you.Yes, I'm impressed by what you can do. But, hate the one manages you."

The posts come just as the Brazil and Japan football teams prepare to meet in a friendly exhibition game on Tuesday evening. 

Both teams voiced concern over sandy patches on the pitch, which could increase the risk of injury during the match. 

While the Football Association of Singapore has declared the field to be “playable” despite being “short of international playing standards”, Brazil coach Dunga does not seem impressed.

During a press conference on Monday, Dunga said, “I feel that most of it is sand, not grass... It’s going to be hard to pass the ball. The Brazilian team always tries to produce a good spectacle… but we need good conditions of the field.”

Japan’s coach Javier Aguirre said pitch conditions would prevent the Japanese squad from putting on their best performance.

Reuters reported that the Sports Hub purchased S$1.18 million in growth enhancing lights after Italian football team Juventus played a friendly match with the Singapore Selection team on 16 August.

However, the senior director of Stadium at Sports Hub, Gregory Gillin, said, "Most stadia have six months with nothing on it first before they use the pitch."

No time for football pitch to recover?

Since the new National Stadium opened in June this year, the pitch has been used for various back-to-back events -- including music concerts -- leaving very little time for the grass on the pitch to grow. 

A total of 3,000 performers from the Singapore Chinese Orchestra held  a concert at the National Stadium on 28 June, followed by a Stefanie Sun comeback concert on 5 July. 

After the Brazil-Japan friendly on Tuesday evening, the venue will be hosting Mariah Carey’s concert on 24 October, followed by Jay Chou’s concert on 8 November and a rugby event involving the New Zealand All-Blacks a week later.

While next year’s SG50 National Day Parade is scheduled to be held at the Padang, Yahoo Singapore understands that talks have already started for the NDP to be hosted at the Sports Hub pitch in 2016. Rehearsals for the mass parade can take place over several months before the actual celebration.