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A Walk Down Memory Lane: Fans' Journeys to the Old National Stadium

"I alighted somewhere near Gay World, then made my way towards Nicoll Highway and crossed the bridge outside the PA HQ (the former People's Association headquarters that was located at the old Kallang Airport premises) before reaching the stadium," said Abang Nasir, a co-worker who reminisced the ride on bus number 41 that dropped him off outside the now demolished amusement park along Mountbatten Road.

"On the bridge, hawkers were selling 'karipap' (curry puffs) and drinks to fans going to the stadium on match days." as he went on to describe the scene on the elevated walkway that bridged across Nicoll Highway which was usually packed whenever Singapore played their home games at Kallang.

fans trekked along Nicoll Highway before crossing the bridge to reach the old National Stadium before the Circle Line days
Those were the days - this was how we went to the games 

Abang Nasir was one of the many thousands who religiously made their way to the old National Stadium during the "Kallang Roar" era of the mid-1970s to 1980s.

Unlike the wider range of transportation options available nowadays to visitors to the new National Stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub, there were fewer choices back then for football fans heading to the "Grand Ol' Lady" with public buses being the preferred choice for many.

The bus service numbers around the old National Stadium at Kallang back in the 1970s
Bus routes around Kallang in the 1970s (as credited)

Thankfully, there were several buses making stops around the old stadium, thus making it possible for fans to proceed straight to the turnstiles from nearby Mountbatten Road, Geylang area, etc.

STROLLING ALONG MERDEKA BRIDGE

Nonetheless, some fans did not have the luxury of dropping off near the stadium and had to trek a distance before reaching the ground.

According to one feedback to a Facebook posting I posted to solicit relevant details, one fan commented he used to take bus number 82 from Punggol and alighted at a bus stop along Beach Road in front of Golden Mile (Woh Hup) Complex.

Walking along Merdeka Bridge to the town area
Walking along Merdeka Bridge to the town area

Following that, he would make his way towards Nicoll Highway and stride along the Merdeka Bridge before reaching the destination in the journey that took him about "20 minutes walking".

The mentioned route was confirmed by Mr Richard Lincoln in another social post.

In reply to a separate post on "Nostalgic Singapore" - another Facebook group, Mr Lincoln wrote: "Those living in the Beach Rd (sic) area would go by Nicoll Highway near Golden Mile Complex n(sic) cross(ed) Merdeka Bridge to go to the Stadium."

The unassuming yet historical bridge that linked the downtown area of Singapore to the eastern part of the island was also used by Abang Nasir for his return journey after a match.

"After the match, I and many others would make our way to Merdeka Bridge and head off from there to our bus stop near Capitol Theater to take our bus home," recalled Abang Nasir.

The sight of Merdeka Bridge from the underpass below it
The sight of Merdeka Bridge from another perspective 

Not many, though, went the same direction as Abang Nasir who needed to walk towards the direction of the Esplanade, some presumably made a right turn to Crawford Street to board their buses after crossing the bridge.

"When there were football matches at the stadium, buses from the city area were always full with (sic) fans." said Ms Theresa Deans, another responder to the same "Nostalgic Singapore" post, who remembered the sights she witnessed on any game day whenever she was onboard bus number 10 that brought her back from work via the bridge which was officially opened on 17th August 1956 by then Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock.

"OLD PA HQ" AND McDonald's = FAVOURITE CAR PARK

With its location right opposite the old National Stadium, the former PA HQ at the old Kallang Airport premises was also used by some to park their vehicles on match days.

Abang Hussain Razzak was one of those who would drive his vehicle all the way down from Sembawang and parked at the site that used to be the island's first purpose-built civil international airport.

The Kallang Airport Gateway
The Kallang Airport Gateway

"It was a weekly ritual event for us," said the long-time Wolverhampton Wanderers fan who shared with this platform that it was easy for him and his friends to head down from the north together as they were staying around the Sembawang area.

"Everybody played a part by ensuring their vehicles were parked properly in the (old) PA (HQ)," shared Abang Hussain when asked if he encountered any difficulty while looking for a parking slot at the site that was gazetted for conservation by the URA in December 2008.

The Kallang Airport building
The Kallang Airport building 

"For those who could not find a slot in (old PA HQ), they would look for alternatives, but at no point would they disrupt others by being disruptive," added Abang Hussain who now works in the transportation industry.

One alternative option would be the open-air car park at Stadium Boulevard, which Mr Antony Lou would use if he couldn't find a space at the Old PA HQ.

"I would park my car at McDonald's (located at Stadium Boulevard's open-air car park) if I didn't find a slot at Old PA (HQ)," said Antony, who regularly shares his thoughts on local football with this platform.

Open-air car park at Stadium Boulevard
Open-air car park at Stadium Boulevard

One of his etched memories of those days was witnessing droves of fans crossing Nicoll Highway despite the heavy traffic.

"That was part of the fun ... again (it was) the anticipation and adrenaline rush as we walked towards the stadium," added Antony whose other option would be at Tanjong Rhu area from where he would make his way to the stadium by foot.

"CUP CHYE"

Another popular mode of transportation in those days was riding "Cup Chye" (or 'KAPCHAI' which literally means a type of underbone motorcycle) to the games.

Based on one account shared online, it was a common sight to see a "whole army of bikes parking there" at the stadium entrance with "some boys became kreta jaga (vehicle caretakers) to guard the bikes for a few cents."

Despite reports of disputes taking place between them, some bikers were willing to pay those "kreta jaga" to take care of their bikes for a small fee so they wouldn't have to worry if anything mishapped to their bikes while watching the games.

KALLANG MRT STATION

The opening of the Kallang MRT station on the 4th of November 1989 proved to be another breakthrough for the match day experience.

Even after fans alight from their train rides at Kallang MRT station, they still need to walk along Lorong One Geylang to reach the old PA HQ before crossing the overhead bridge across Nicoll Highway to reach the old National Stadium.

Kallang MRT station was opened in 1989
Kallang MRT station was opened in 1989

Despite this walking journey, they appreciate the convenience offered by the MRT ride, as some no longer have to endure the long bus rides like in the old days.

This was exactly the same route I took with Abang Nasir and two other colleagues when we made our way to the old National Stadium from the station as mentioned above during one of the game days before the opening of Stadium MRT station which is now the more favoured spot to meet on any big event day at Singapore Sports Hub.

(P.S 1: Some images in this entry were reproduced from sources, as credited, should anyone feel it's inappropriate to have any of the media shown, please kindly email me as soon as possible and I will remove them upon request.)

(P.S 2: I stand to be corrected should there be any mistake in this entry, please feel free to email me if there is, thanks)

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