KUALA LUMPUR: The pitch at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil here will soon be resurfaced with carpet (cow) grass the preferred surface for football matches.
The pitch of the main stadium in the National Sports Complex had been an embarrassment in the staging of high profile matches over the past few years.
And the Stadium Board have now decided to upgrade the pitch to Wembley Stadium status placing priority to stage mainly football matches.
(Wembley was the hallowed ground for English football and only used for Cup finals and international matches).
The Stadium Board chairman, Ismail Sabri, said at press conference yesterday that it would cost them about RM1.5 million to lay the new pitch.
We have to uphold the image of the National Stadium. The pitch is an important component and it is our primary aim to provide an excellent environment for football, he said.
He gave the FA of Malaysia (FAM) an assurance that the pitch would be well maintained by qualified grounds men after they replaced the unsuitable Bermuda grass with cow grass.
The last tournament to be held at the stadium was a Youth International tournament involving Brazil, Uruguay, South Korea and Malaysia in March. The Stadium Board came under heavy criticisms for the poor condition of the pitch.
Last week, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said that they were aware of the bad quality of the pitch and promised to improve it for the FA Premier League (FAPL) Asia Cup.
The tournament, scheduled for July 24-27, features English Premier League clubs Newcastle, Chelsea and Birmingham and the Malaysian national team.
Ismail said that they had closed the stadium and cancelled all bookings to carry out upgrading works on the pitch, costing RM100,000, for the FAPL Asia Cup and the new pitch would be laid after the tournament.
After we lay the new pitch, we will ensure that all other activities besides sports, which are held at the stadium, will not damage the pitch, he said.
We have given this assurance to the FAM and hope that they will continue to host local and international matches more regularly, at least twice a month, at our venue.
He added that they would face loss in revenue with the restrictions on the usage of the pitch for concerts, rallies and other social activities.
The poor pitch condition of the National Stadium was also highlighted when Malaysia hosted matches against English football giants Manchester United in 2001 and against Brazil last May.
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