Sweet music in Gong Badak

Before and after: The Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium in Gong Badak today and when the roof collapsed 11 years ago (below).

PETALING JAYA: Eleven years ago, the RM300mil Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium in Gong Badak, Terengganu, was in the news. The roof had collapsed just a year after it was opened, with damage estimated at RM25mil.

The iron frame structure supporting the 300m-long roof folded. leaving the main entrance, royal podium and public seating area unusable.

The stadium was then left abandoned and left to rot. Not any more.

Terengganu’s coach Nafuzi Zain will lead his charges into the revamped stadium for the 2020 Super League season and he is feeling all excited about it.

The stadium has been refurbished and most importantly, the pitch has been changed. It now has high-quality Bermuda grass.

The right grass certainly helps improve the standard of football and Nafuzi believes his charges will be able to play neat and free-flowing football in the stadium.

“Not just us, but visiting teams will benefit, too. When you have a good pitch, the quality of the game improves, ” said the former Malaysian international.

“Any game in Gong Badak will be exciting. This kind of pitch is suited towards our philosophy, and other teams will surely want to exhibit their style of play too.

“Fans are in for a good time in this stadium. We are excited about having our first game on this pitch against Perak on Feb 29.”

Terengganu are also rebuilding well for the 2020 Super League. They have completed their roster and all the players have joined the club for training.

For Nafuzi, it is time now to build the team’s chemistry and fitness as they have planned some friendly matches in the next few weeks.

Also, he has brought in Brazilian fitness coach Silvio Goncalves to keep the players in shape.

“The conditioning of the players is much better now. We have trained for a few weeks now, and I see the results. Fitness-wise, we are getting there, now it is time to build our chemistry.

“You have to understand that this is a team filled with lots of young players, helped by experienced foreign players.

“To make sure our philosophy works, we will be playing three friendlies in the Klang Valley. At the end of January, we will be going to Bangkok to play three Thai clubs.”

Nafuzi has so far signed Singaporean international winger Faris Ramli, Mauritanian striker Dominique Da Sylva, Senegal centreback Boubacar Diallo, former Harimau Muda winger D. Saarvindran, and midfielders Nasir Basharuddin and Stuart Wark.

“We have seven weeks to prepare for our first match. I think it is more than enough to build chemistry.

“The new players have shown good commitment, and we hope they would produce their best when they play.

“For me, I want to ensure that there is progress. I am never a believer in expectations.”

Terengganu finished seventh in the 12-team league last season, so progress is a must.

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