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Pitch issues for Singapore Women’s Premier League draw ire

The Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) kicked off on March 9 to much fanfare and, while off-field conditions have improved, another issue has arisen to the frustration and anger of players, coaches and fans.

On the opening day, players encountered uneven and sandy surfaces at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium. Conditions deteriorated the next day when rain caused parts of the field to become muddy and waterlogged.

In videos seen by The Straits Times, the teams struggled to keep the ball moving as the poor pitch conditions slowed down play and resulted in errant passes.

All 72 WPL matches will be played at Choa Chu Kang this season, with two back-to-back matches every Saturday and Sunday on most weekends.

The women’s league was played at the Yishun Stadium in 2022, with three other venues, including Choa Chu Kang, added the next year. In 2022, ST reported problems faced by WPL players, including poor pitches, no dugouts and insufficient changing rooms.

While improvements have been made – all matches are now played at a centralised venue, there are sufficient changing rooms and sheltered dugouts – the pitch remains a serious issue.

Players and coaches were grateful for the off-field upgrades, but stressed the need for a good playing surface.

Albirex Niigata striker Lila Tan, 20, said: “It’s quite evident that the field is not in the best condition and it’s just not the most ideal for us. The pitch today (March 10) was messy and muddy.”

With the penalty area one of the worst-hit parts of the field, goalkeepers are also impacted.

Albirex custodian Lutfiah Hannah, 23, said: “There tends to be bumps and when the ball hits them, it will go in another direction so it’s hard to be in the right position every single time.”

Geylang International coach Ratna Suffian, 45, said that while he was not looking for excuses, the pitch was partly responsible for a goal they conceded in their 3-0 loss to Albirex.

He explained: “Whether you’re an amateur or professional team, a poor pitch will affect your execution plans. Some areas are just unplayable, you miskick, it leads to a goal; your plans go down the drain. The players needed to dig deep to clear the ball and… it led to an improper clearance which caused an unfortunate goal.”

Still Aerion president Simon Tan, whose side defeated Tanjong Pagar United 1-0 on March 10, added: “I personally feel that with a waterlogged pitch like that, the game shouldn’t even continue because it affects the playing quality. It wears the players down very easily.”

Their frustrations were also felt by fans. Security supervisor Kamal Raj, 32, called the pitch condition “terrible”, adding: “The number of passes not completed because the ball got stuck halfway was crazy. The players weren’t able to show fully what they were capable of.”

Aside from WPL games, the stadium is also being used for training by Albirex’s youth and men’s teams due to the returfing of their home ground at Jurong East.

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