KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 15 — After years of grouses, Malaysia Stadium Corporation (MSC) chairman Tan Sri Tony Fernandes today promised to improve the pitch conditions of the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil here and turn it into the ‘best in Asia’.
While stressing that the current condition of the pitch can’t exactly be described as disastrous, the airline tycoon said he will deliver his promise within a year for the comfort of the Harimau Malaya squad, saying that various types of grass and planting techniques have already been experimented by the MSC ground staff.
This includes the option to cultivate the grass outside the stadium for better sunlight and growth before being rolled inside the stadium a few days before a match, which would also allow the MSC to use the stadium for more non-football activities without sacrificing pitch quality.
“We want to make it better and better, it will be an ongoing process and we have to work closely with FAM (Football Association of Malaysia) to have a pitch they like. It might take a year or even more. The drainage is good, but the way the stadium is designed and ventilated is not helping.
“We will also ask the specialists, not only from the west because they do not understand our climate, but also from countries like Thailand and Singapore to do an independent analysis to improvise. But for the moment, we will have longer gaps between activities to ensure the quality,” he said in a press conference at the National Stadium here, today.
Earlier, Youth and Sports Minister, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman witnessed the signing ceremony between Tony and FAM President, Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin to use the National Stadium as the home ground for the Harimau Malaya for all official tournaments, except friendly matches.
The partnership will be in effect until December 31, 2020 with an option to extend for two years from Jan 1, 2021 till December 31, 2022 based on mutual agreement.
The Harimau Malaya squad under the tutelage of Tan Cheng Hoe is set to face Jordan in a friendly tie on Aug 30 at the National Stadium, before kicking off the second round of the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup joint qualification Group G campaign against Indonesia on September 5 in Jakarta, followed by an uphill task against United Arab Emirates at home five days later.
Tony added the partnership also includes preparing the best experience for the fans, among others by introducing full online ticket sales and numbered seating, as well as enhancing safety and security, priority for loyal fans and other side activities.
Meanwhile, Syed Saddiq in his speech, said the numbered seating and online ticketing was the two key performance indicators (KPIs) to Tony, after having experienced forgettable moments in the past as a fan.
“Apart from that, it is also very important that FAM and Harimau Malaya feel that they belonged at the National Stadium, like being in their own homes.
“When they play here, they know there are 80,000 fans cheering them on,” he said.
Hamidin, meanwhile, hoped that through plans to set up a gallery or museum displaying the history and by selling merchandise of the national team, the National Stadium would become a tourist attraction similar to the Wembley and Emirates Stadium in England. — Bernama