THIS has never happened in Asean, or probably in Asia, as a professional football match was played inside an ultra-modern shopping mall.
The homecoming of five-time S-League champion Tampines Rovers on Friday after six years was a dream-come-true in so many ways.
Never before in Singapore sports history has a top-class football match played within ‘Our Tampines Hub’, the first-ever integrated community and lifestyle hub that brings together multiple agencies to offer a comprehensive and diverse range of services, programmes and facilities.
This unprecedented project is led by the People’s Association (PA) and located at the former Tampines Stadium and Tampines Sports Hall.
Returning to their new-look homeground for the first time since 2011 was a community thriller as a crowd of 4,676 in the 5,000-capacity ground saw the Stags (Tampines Rovers’ nickname) beat Brunei DPMM 2-0 with goals from defender Shakir Hamzah and playmaker Shahdan Sulaiman.
Tampines Rovers Chairman, lawyer Krishna Ramachandran even ran on to the astro-turf pitch to congratulate the celebrating players and officials.
GREAT TEAM EFFORT
He says: “This was a truly great team effort by the entire fraternity. Football was the outright winner. I hope this marks the beginning of a sort of resurgence in fan engagement in the heartland itself and not just for our club.”
He saluted the Tampines GRC MPs, which includes Heng Swee Keat, Masagos Zulkifli, Desmond Choo, Baey Yam Keng and Cheng Li Hui, for their “overwhelming support”.
He adds: “Tampines Rovers FC is ever grateful to the Tampines GRC MPs for rallying around the club and this hub project to make it a wonderful homecoming for us. This success must be sustained and it certainly gives us all a glimpse of the true galvanizing effect that football has for a people.”
The VIPs at the match cheered themselves hoarse with Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, who is also an MP for Tampines GRC, and Mayor North-East CDC Desmond Choo in tow.
Also in his favourite yellow-jersey was former Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan, who is also Adviser to the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and Yatiman Yusof, the former Tampines Rovers’ patron and ex-Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts.
Let it be put on record that when ‘Our Tampines Hub’ is completed, residents and people working within the vicinity will enjoy a variety of sports facilities, a brand new regional library, countless community club programmes and amenities, arts programmes and facilities, a hawker centre, retail shops and many more user-friendly features.
Conceptualised with input from 15,000 Tampines residents, ‘Our Tampines Hub’ is a project designed by residents, for residents.
‘Our Tampines Hub’, which occupies 5.3ha – about the size of seven football fields – now has among its numerous facilities a 5,000-seat stadium, a higher capacity than the grounds of the seven other local S-League clubs, which average around 4,000.
Residents of Tampines exchanged high-fives in the sea of yellow and the club supporters clearly expressed relief that they no longer have to travel all the way to Jurong West Stadium to cheer for the Stags.
SUPER RETURN OF STAGS
The return of the Stags to Tampines has enlivened the place. In previous years, the team played at Clementi Stadium and Jurong West Stadium.
Tampines Rovers’ German coach Jurgen Raab says: “We had to be very careful. I knew that Brunei try to only play with long balls and counter attack (hoping) that we will make some mistake in the back.”
“It is easier to play (on the new pitch) with even balls especially. It is different from Jurong West and I think we need a little time to adapt because the new granules is not completely even with some parts of the pitch having more and some less but we will get used to this.”
Schoolteacher Arumugam Perumal, 45, who came with his family of four, says: “This is unbelievable. Usually the (Tampines) Hub is not that crowded. But today, it’s really buzzing and it is a positive step for Tampines and Singaporeans.”
Architect Raymond Teo, 41, summed the jubilation as a “special celebration for Tampines New Town”. He says: “We’re proving to Singaporeans that Tampines is a very special place where the folks are community-spirited and support football. I hope to see the standard of football improving, more attacking football.”
Waitress Hamidah Latiff, 47, with her three teenage kids holding hands, says: “We can hold our heads high as Tampines residents. We can be a role-model to Singaporeans now that we have the nice infrastructure, it’s now time to step up the football and other sports to a higher level.”
Most importantly, for Tampines Rovers’ fans, it’s the quality of football shown on Friday that matters as the Stags are now in second spot after 14 S-League matches with 31 points – only three behind pace-setters Albirex Niigata. – BY SURESH NAIR
• Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist, who sat on the board of Tampines Rovers when the S-League started in 1996.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed on this web site are solely those of the writers or contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of www.sports247.my