Singapore set to welcome the world
Although the world’s attention will be focused on South Africa in June and July, August sees the debut of the Youth Olympic Games, which take place in Singapore. Preparations are well underway for the event, including the football competition, which will take place at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
It is an arena which has special links with FIFA. As well as various courses taking place there, such as those specialising in coaching, COM-UNITY, refereeing and administration, two Goal projects were also approved by FIFA in 2004 and 2008. The first was to replace the grass pitch at the stadium with football turf, which was such a success that the pitch was upgraded with the first-ever FIFA-approved Third Generation Football Turf surface in Singapore.
“FIFA’s assistance in the renovation was absolutely crucial,” the Football Association of Singapore’s spokesman Eric Ong told FIFA.com. “The Goal and Financial Assistance project has not only done so many good things in this country, but also for the whole of Asia – and I think it’s very important to remember that. FIFA have helped us to create a wonderful stadium with a fantastic pitch, which is almost in constant use.
“The national team play their matches here and it’s also the home stadium for the Young Lions, who play in our S-League. During the day, the players in our national academy train here, plus we’ve got women’s and children’s teams who use the facilities. Plus, on every Friday evening, the stadium hosts a match, so Singaporeans know that they can always come down on a Friday night and watch a good game of football.”
Between 14 and 26 August 2010 there will be more ‘good games’ of football taking place at the Jalan Besar, as representatives from the six confederations battle for gold in the Youth Olympics.
The stadium, which holds just over 6,000, was originally built in 1932 and was widely used for major events in the country’s history such as the first Singapore Youth Festival in 1955, the first Singapore Armed Forces Day in 1969 and the 1984 National Day Parade. However, at the turn of the century it was rebuilt and consequently reopened in 2003.
“Naturally, everyone at the FA was delighted that the Jalan Besar Stadium was chosen as the venue for the football tournament, because it’s not only our headquarters, but more importantly it’s the spiritual home of football in the country,” said Ong. “It’s a real football stadium. There’s no running track, so the supporters are really close to the pitch, which provides an excellent atmosphere.
“The entire event is great for Singapore and Singaporeans,” continued Ong. “We’re expecting around 4,000 athletes and officials to the country because of these Games and the people are honoured and excited to be hosts. It will also give the participants a chance to experience Singapore and learn from their competitors from other countries. We’ve already had the Asian Youth Games, but the Youth Olympics will be something extra special.”
Football has a good tradition in Singapore. The country’s first governing body was founded as far back in 1892, making it Asia’s oldest. Singapore have also won two out of the last three Tiger Cups, the biennial competition involving nations from south east Asia. The S.League, which began life in 1996 is also going from strength to strength.
“When it launched in 1996, people thought that it would not last, but the league is getting stronger, said Ong.” Our most successful club, Singapore Armed Forces, who have won eight of the 14 titles – made their first appearance in the group stages Asian Champions League this season and were drawn against Kashima Antlers, Suwon Bluewings and Shanghai Shenhua. The experience of that was incredibly beneficial – and everyone hopes that they can do the same in the next Champions League. We hope that the experience for our young players at this Youth Olympics will prove to be similarly beneficial.”