|Can the "Kallang Roar" return to National Stadium|
FUTILE ATTEMPTS TO REVIVE
In the recent years, futile attempts were made to revive the invitational tournament, last staged in 2009 as an one-off fixture when English side Liverpool were featured against the Singapore national team, in the iconic 55,000-capacity National Stadium.
The well-documented spat back in late 2015 between SportsHub and MP & Silva, FAS commercial and media rights partner, over the venue rental costs eventually had the plan shelved indefinitely after talks between both parties broke down.
|Reason why FAS did not organize Merlion Cup in 1987 (source: NST)|
Under the new agreement, the both organizations have committed to a minimum of seven matches to be played at the Sports Hub with a "Home of the Lions" initiative in place to generate deeper engagement with the community through activities like football festivals and stadium tours, according to the joint media release issued by both FAS and SportsHub.
FAS AND SPORTSHUB TO FINALISE DETAILS
When asked if the revival of tournaments such as the Merlion Cup and Lion City Cup would help to fulfill the minimum requirement of games to be played at the National Stadium, FAS said they will be working together with SportsHub on those relevant aspects following the announcement of the said MOU.
In an email reply to this blog, FAS Deputy Director (Marketing) Rikram Singh said:"The Football Association of Singapore and the Singapore Sports Hub are working together to finalise the calendar of events and matches that will both excite fans and create a vibrant slew of activities at the Home of the Lions. More details on these upcoming matches and activities will be announced in due course."
|Still a long way to go before have this being a common sight at Kallang|
However, with year 2018 being the World Cup year, there might be a tendency that many marquee teams and names may decline any invitation from the Republic in order to prepare for the greatest show on earth, even though the International Champions Cup (ICCSG) will be staging its second edition at the National Stadium in few months down the road.
THE CHALLENGES AHEAD
It would also be difficult to entice these top quality sides to play friendly matches here in Singapore given the evolution that taken place in the game for past decades, an opinion shared with this blogger by a game analyst.
"It will be a very good treat for the fans if we are able to invite strong foreign age-group teams or even full national teams for a mini-tournament series like the Merlion Cup." said Tam Cheong Yan, a longtime observer of local football.
"But it may not be as easy as it was, say, twenty years ago. Football standards around the world have changed, and top-billing teams like England, Uruguay or even Japan are going to need a lot of persuading to come here and play against Singapore.
"But those are the kind of teams fans want to see. They may not respond so well if we secure good but not-so-glamorous opponents - and even those teams will take some convincing to decide to come here."
** UPDATE: FAS replied to the query sent by this blog and this entry is being updated with the reply from the relevant official on 3rd of March 2018. **