- POSTED: 07 Jan 2014 09:26
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It looks like a Causeway derby between Singapore and Malaysia will indeed be the first football match to be played at the Sports Hub this year.
SINGAPORE: It looks like a Causeway derby between Singapore and Malaysia will indeed be the first football match to be played at the Sports Hub this year.
Bernama, Malaysia's national news agency, reported recently that the country's national football team will play the Lions in an opening match for the new 55,000-seater National Stadium in May.
Responding to queries from TODAY, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) confirmed on January 6 that the Harimau Malaya, the country's national team, will play the Lions. However, no details were available at press time.
TODAY had first reported last September that the World Sport Group (WSG), the commercial partner of the Sports Hub, was considering a Causeway derby to mark the opening of the National Stadium, which will feature the world's biggest dome roof and air-cooled seats.
When contacted, a Football Association of Singapore (FAS) spokesperson would only say: "We are currently working out the details of the match to be played at the opening of the Sports Hub and will announce the details at an opportune time."
Although top sides like Manchester United, Liverpool and Barcelona had been cited as possibilities to mark the grand opening of the Sports Hub, it is believed this year's busy football calendar will prove a tough challenge for event organisers to find a top international club side to play at the National Stadium.
The race for the 2013-14 English Premier League title is expected to go on till May, while the world's best 32 national sides will be focused on the World Cup in Brazil from June 12 to July 13. However, fans TODAY spoke to were happy to watch a Singapore-Malaysia game.
"It's a nice way to kick off as Singapore and Malaysia are historic rivals," said Henry Han, 38, a line supervisor in the marine and offshore industry. "It's been a while since we've watched the national team play at a national stadium since the old one was demolished (in 2010).
"I have very fond memories of the place as I watched the Malaysia Cup there when I was a teenager. This will give families a chance to relive the olden days and it is still something many people look forward to."
Likewise, while Royston Jalleh is a Manchester United fan, he will still buy a ticket to the Singapore-Malaysia game.
"I think it's wonderful news as it's been some time since we heard the Kallang Roar," said the 50-year-old. "Having Singapore play Manchester United would be exciting, but I would rather have Singapore play Malaysia any time. That's where you get the true Singapore spirit, and people go there wanting to support their team."
Others like John Tommy Yeo - who operated a drinks stall at the old National Stadium from 1972 to 2007 - are more keen to see the Lions challenge the region's bigger teams.
"Of course it will be good to see Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich play here," said the 52-year-old, who has fond memories of Singapore football legends like Dollah Kassim and Quah Kim Song.
"But it will be more interesting to see Singapore play teams like Thailand, South Korea or Japan. It's been a long time since we've seen South Korea and Japan here and it will be more exciting than if Singapore plays Malaysia."