By Suresh Nair

IN a little corner of central Singapore, along the quiet and serene greenery of Woodleigh Park, off Braddell Road, comes a refreshingly special “bola” sensation – the first football thematic lifestyle destination in Singapore.

Welcome to ‘The Arena’, a stylish new spanking sports park which also incorporates Singapore’s first Cafe Football, which has a touch of global celebrity as former Manchester United greats Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville are part-owners.

Refurbished at over $1million, it’s an overhaul of the old Public Utilities Board (PUB) Recreation Club and in the midst of the black and while Colonial-styled bungalows, emerges a wonderful sporting hub, which has been the talk of Singaporeans since it had a soft-opening, beginning of the year.

“It’s something Singaporeans will relish, in family-style, as we offer a wide variety of sports and fitness options,” says Managing Director Simon Tan, a pilot-turned-businessman, with a genuine heart of football.  “The inclusion of a full-fledged restaurant completes the experience as it allows our customers, their family and friends, to come together in one venue to engage in sports, food, events and activities.”

Aside from top-quality football pitches, ‘The Arena’ caters to fitness enthusiasts with fitness studios where programmes such as Muay Thai, Aerial Yoga, Rock Climbing, Dance and Functional Fitness are eye-catching alternatives to football.

In a nutshell, the formula reads: Football + Fitness + Food = The Arena.

“You could call ‘The Arena’ a football partnership, built by footballers for the family of footballers,” says Mr Tan, who played pro football for Balestier United when the S-League started in 1996.

He specially takes pride that Arena Football (the football arm of ‘The Arena’), has one 11-a-side, two seven-a-side, and three five-a-side pitches. And he holds his head high that the entity is the first and only facility in Singapore to use world-class quality turf.

“Hey, you can say the grass is definitely greener on our side,” he adds as he shows how no compromises on quality have been made on the pitches, which are lined with top-grade artificial grass. Known as FIFA Quality Pro Grass (used to be named FIFA 2 Star), top clubs in Europe use the exact same turf which assures high performance and long durability.

The General Manager of ‘The Arena’ is 53-year-old former Singapore skipper Razali Saad (1986-88), who has 53 “A” caps and played for the Lions from 1984-93. He is now a Board Member of Sport Singapore (SportSG) and a member of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Transitional Council. Fandi Ahmad, too, plays an advisory role.

Razali and Fandi’s interests in firing up the early popularity of ‘The Arena’ have inspired Mr Tan to allow the Singapore Ex-Internationals, from the famous ‘Kallang Roar’ era of the 1970s, to use the facilities on a complimentary basis.  “It’s our small humble way to recognise what the former internationals have done and to encourage them to continue contributing towards the sporting community,” adds Mr Tan.

Already the JSSL Football Academy, one of the leading youth-development institutions, has relocated to Woodleigh Park, as the anchor tenant, to conduct its grassroots programmes for boys and girls.

In addition, more than half of the S-League clubs, including five-time champion Tampines Rovers, Hougang United, Geylang United, Home United and Warriors FC and also Malaysian Super League (MSL) club Pahang, have used the facilities.


Café Football, the food branch of ‘The Arena’, adds the special branded flavour of the traditional Match Day favourites, served in England before the weekend’s EPL (English Premier League) matches.

“Yes, we pay special premium to the ‘makan’, too. The food at Café Football will be a unique take as it matches some of the best football bites served in this region. We want it to be the place where guests can enjoy themselves while eating classic football dishes with a modern twist,” says Mr Tan.

‘The Arena’, according to Mr Tan, wants Singaporeans to “experience a real sense of community within the fans-fraternity and we want that fun atmosphere to spread to Café Football, where it will be a place that reflects the spirit of fans coming together after a match or a fitness-workout”.

Former Manchester United captain Neville, who recently opened a similar café in London, adds: “Opening a restaurant is a huge step away from our lives on the pitch, but we are going to apply the same levels of enthusiasm and passion to try and make Café Football a success in London and Singapore.”

Yes, food and football are a delicious combination as former England team mate David Beckham is already in the London restaurant business, having opened his Union Street Café in Southwark, in collaboration with famous chef Gordon Ramsay.


Arena Fitness adds to the family fun, from working class adults to teenagers, who have the opportunity to bring the best out of the multi-tasked fitness regime, by getting in shape while ensuring an enjoyable workout.

Mr Tan says: “We offer a wide range of programmes that cater to various fitness levels and interests. Our classes can be attended in open classes, private groups or one-on-one trainings.”

Among the wide breakdown of fitness programmes include Arena FlyWith Fitness (FlyWith Aerial • WeBarre • FlyWith Mat Pilates • FlyWith Yoga);  Arena Warehouse Dance Fitness (Hi-Lo Kardio Aerobics • Step Workout • Kardio Mix • Kardio Kickboxing Zumba • Piloxing • Pound • Strong • Salsation • U Jam Fitness?K Kardio Fitness • Piloxing Knockout)

Arena Dungeon Functional Fitness  (ABT Conditioning • Fitness Bootcamp • 5 BX Workout • Tabata C3 • Bodyweight Mobility Workout • Transformers • Cardio Burnout The Victoria’s Secret • Dungeon’s Circuit Training • Crossfit Trainings);  Arena MMA  (Muay Thai • Boxing • Kids Muay Thai • MMA Fun Kids);  Arena Extreme (Bouldering • Rock Climbing • Augmented Climbing Wall)

Drop by The Arena to experience the special “bola” sensation – the first football thematic lifestyle destination in Singapore.

Situated just alongside the Braddell/Bartley Road Viaduct, and accessible by various forms of public transport: Woodleigh MRT Station (seven minutes by foot), Serangoon MRT Station (three minutes bus ride), Bishan MRT Station (10 minutes bus ride) and Toa Payoh MRT Station (15 minutes bus ride).

More information available by calling 6717 8228 or to check The Arena, at 48 Woodleigh Park, Singapore 357844 by clicking

 Let me say as a parting shot, I just love the promo of ‘The Arena’: Love Food. Love Football.


  • Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist who had a sneak preview of ‘The Arena’ and ranks it as a value-for-money spanking sports park, which also incorporates Singapore’s first Cafe Football
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