Pitch-perfect promise

  • Football
  • Friday, 16 Aug 2019

Looking good: (From left) Malaysia Stadium Corporation (PSM) chairman Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and FAM president Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin inspecting the pitch at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday. — FAM

PETALING JAYA: The home pitch for the national football team will be the best in Asia.

This is the promise made by the Malaysia Stadium Corporation (PSM) chairman Tan Sri Tony Fernandes after signing an agreement with the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) to make the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil the home for the national squad until Dec 31, 2020.

Tony said he had made a promise to raise the profile of the national team’s training ground to head coach Tan Cheng Hoe, FAM president Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin and Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.

“It’s recorded and signed in blood. I can’t see why we cannot do it. Singaporeans could do it, and the Thais could do it. We are determined to give you the best pitch, ” said Tony.

Thanks to the new deal, all Malaysia’s home matches during the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers round two campaign from Sept 5, 2019, to June 9, 2020, and the AFF Suzuki Cup from November to December 2020 will take place at the National Stadium.

Tony said the contract could be extended until 2022 if both parties agree to it.

“We are working on building a museum, hall of fame, and a superstore, where fans can get official merchandise and memorabilia, ” said Tony.

“We want to make sure the players feel at home. The corporation will make the changing room brighter, and we want to have historical pictures in the walkway.

“It has to be home for our players. The atmosphere should inspire the players. It’s like how the Wembley stadium is home to the England players.

“In the past, we just put a pitch and say come and play. That’s the wrong approach. We will work closely with FAM from now on to deliver a field that they like.”

Cheng Hoe has always lamented about the poor pitch condition at the National Stadium and he was worried about the lack of a short-term solution to fix the problem ahead of Malaysia’s friendly game against Jordan on Aug 30.

Tony has assured that his groundsmen are working hard to follow the standards set by the FAM.

“The pitch is not a disaster. Top football teams have played on this pitch, including my own (Queens Park Rangers). It just needs some improvement, ” he said.

“The drainage is good. We must ensure that we don’t use the pitch for any other sports, it was a mistake that some other games were played before the last World Cup qualifying game.

“It’s playable. Cut the grass to what they (FAM) require. We will have to work closely, and I think we can do it.”

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