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Sweet Yet Sour Toa Payoh Stadium

Many motorists would be forgiven if that unassuming small stadium located next to the huge SAFRA clubhouse failed to grab their attention when they drove past it after entering Toa Payoh from the westbound Pan Island Expressway (PIE).

OFTEN FORGOTTEN OBSCURITY

After all, the awkward positioning of that above-mentioned brutalist arena along the busy Lorong 6 stretch does no favour to help any random visitor to have a clear visible sight of it when there is a car park in front of it.

The brutalist facade of Toa Payoh Stadium
The brutalist facade of Toa Payoh Stadium

Nonetheless, the 3,800-capacity Toa Payoh Stadium has a special place in local sporting folklore for being part of the then newly erected Toa Payoh Sports Complex which served as a venue for competition and training of the 1973 SEAP Games - the first major sporting event hosted by the then newly-independent Republic of Singapore.

PELE VISITED TOA PAYOH STADIUM IN 1974

It was also this stadium that etched its presence in Singapore football when the legendary Pele conducted a football clinic back in December 1974.

Months before the visit of the three-time World Cup winner, English club Everton conducted a joint-training session with Singapore national team in the midst of the Anchor Soccer Festival at the same venue.

Not only those visits, a fan shared his surreal experience at Toa Payoh Stadium when he was merely footsteps away from two local football icons.

"... I was in my early teens idolising Mat (Mohd) Noh and Uncle Choo (Seng Quee) when I came standing next to them in awe." said Antony Lou in a reply to the posting on the stadium posted on the platform's Facebook Page recently when recounting his close proximity with the gentlemen known as "Allan Clarke of Singapore football" and the greatest coach in local football history respectively.

Legendary Singapore striker Mohd Noh in his Toa Payoh United jersey posed in front of the main stand of Toa Payoh Stadium in this "Singapore Soccer" cover
Legendary striker Mohd Noh at Toa Payoh Stadium in this October 1975 "Singapore Soccer" cover

Another fan also shared his recollection of meeting another local football legend up close during an ongoing match.

"(I was) seated right by the corner flag, up close to legend Yahya Madon (a former national midfielder in the 1980s) when he was taking the corner kick for Police SA in an (sic) FAS Premier League match in 1989." reminisced Amrin Ismail who also remembered that match attracted a "full-house attendance with spectators spilling onto the running track".

A view of Toa Payoh Stadium from the overhead bridge linked across PIE from Jalan Rajah
Some fans watch the game from this perspective at Toa Payoh Stadium

But the most intriguing tale on the stadium was shared by Terence Porter from Australia.

Attending his first Singapore football match back in 2013, Terence shared how he made his way to the ground from Toa Payoh MRT station on foot.

Upon arriving at the stadium for the S.League match between Balestier Khalsa and Geylang International, the Sydney native was greeted by someone who was decked in green and white while watching the players doing their warming up.

Ultra Eagles at Toa Payoh Stadium in 2013
Ultra Eagles at Toa Payoh Stadium in 2013 (as credited)

"... and we started talking. He invited me to join the rest of the guys, who turned out to be the 'Ultras Eagles', the small yet extremely passionate active support group for Geylang. I ended up joining in and singing and chanting with them the whole game ... Finally, the game was over, (and) despite the match going 1-0 to Balestier, I'd had a great time." said Terence who declared himself as a "real fan of Singapore football" since that fateful day.

NEVER AN IDEAL PLACE TO WATCH FOOTBALL

Despite all those sweet memories, Toa Payoh Stadium is, however, never an ideal place for football.

Being a public sporting facility, it has to cater to other stakeholders like schools and other organizations to stage their events, etc.

Many would agree that a pair of binoculars is a must if they are to watch the game from the main stand, as the field of play is a quite distance away from it unless one is seated at the opposite unsheltered open gallery.

some mushrooms spotted at field of play at Toa Payoh Stadium
Plenty of editing is required to brighten up snaps at Toa Payoh

Photographers find it tough to take decent photos at night when the floodlights are far from satisfactory.

Because of the aforementioned shortcomings, many fans are hoping that the new football stadium in the upcoming Toa Payoh Integrated Development will correct those issues.

MY ACCOMPLISHMENTS AT TOA PAYOH STADIUM

Nevertheless, this stadium will still have a special place in my heart for being
  • the place where I watched my first live football match.
  • the place where I shook hands with former Singapore captain Terry Pathmanathan and "Dazzler" V Sundram Moorthy after they turned out for Tiong Bahru CSC in a friendly against Singapore Cricket Club.
  • the place I got my autographs signed by Alistair Edwards and Jang Jung.
  • the place where I attended a number of my school sports meets.
  • the place where I witnessed the first S.League goal scored by Esad Seijic for Balestier Central against Police FC in a full-capacity crowd.
  • the place where I filed my first S.League match report
  • the place where I snapped my first football match pictures using my first DSLR camera
Thanks for the memory and for being part of my growing-up years, Toa Payoh Stadium.

Comments

  1. Nice one! Like the old Tampines Stadium Toa Payoh for all its faults will be missed. But what replaces it probably won't please too many if it is synthetic and has other downsides to it. But we all know Toa Payoh had a terrible surface and spectator viewing and comforts weren't the best

    ReplyDelete

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