Thanks to superstar's gig, Lions must play Asian Cup clash at Jalan Besar
IN WHAT could be a major blow to Singapore's 2007 Asian Cup dreams, the Lions will not play their final, and possibly crucial, Asian Cup qualifier against Palestine at the 60,000-seater National Stadium on Nov 15.
They will now play the match at the 6,000-seater Jalan Besar Stadium.
Why? Because the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) have asked the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to give up their booking of the National Stadium, which they made in January, so that British superstar Robbie Williams can hold a concert at the venue on Nov 18.
In response to Today's queries, the SSC's chief of facilities Lim Eng Khoon said: "This was a difficult decision for SSC as we fully support sports and international mega entertainment events that create vibrancy at our facilities.
"After much deliberation, we made this decision based on optimising our pool of limited resources as well as finding the best solution that will benefit all Singaporeans — having both a football match and an international mega event.
"Singapore was not one of the stops on Robbie Williams' Asian tour, but we were able to secure a one night only performance after some negotiations with the organisers who had requested to use the National Stadium.
"The SSC have been in discussions with the FAS on this matter and it is truly unfortunate that both event dates fall within the same period and cannot be changed.
"Sports and international mega entertainment events will feature strongly in the calendar line-up for SSC's facilities, especially in the new Sports Hub. This will be a happy problem whereby we will be spoilt for choice to select which events will be held in the new facilities at the Sports Hub — especially the new 55,000-seater stadium."
Williams' Singapore stop is the third after dates in Hong Kong and Thailand.
When contacted, Midas Promotions managing director Michael Hoskins, the promoters of the concert, said Williams' Singapore date was only confirmed on June 10. He added that the organisers needed about five days to prepare the stage for the mega-concert.
Football officials were naturally peeved when told of the developments.
Singapore's technical director P N Sivaji said: "I am very disappointed with the decision, especially since the FAS had made a booking for the venue well in advance. It does not help the development of Singapore football. It also deprives the fans from coming out to cheer Singapore on especially in a tight group that could go all the way to the wire."
National coach Radojko Avramovic added: "If it goes right to the end, the boys should play in a fantastic atmosphere with as many fans behind them as possible."
The FAS tried to have the date of the fixture changed, but the Asian Football Confederation turned down the request.
Depending on the results of Singapore's double bill against China in August and September and an away tie against Iraq on Oct 11, the match against Palestine could well be the Lions' decider.
They are currently in second spot in Group E behind China, but all four teams in the group have the same number of points (three after two games).
The top two teams in the group qualify for the 2007 Asian Cup final round.