A football feast at our National Stadium... but where's Singapore?
It's not every day you witness four goals from one of the best players in the world on your own doorstep and it's not every day that a football game in Singapore makes international headlines. At the final whistle on Tuesday night, a sell-out crowd at a magnificent new stadium rose to hail Neymar. The Brazilian deserved it after leading his team to a 4-0 win over Japan, the Asian champion.
Whether it is a good idea for a developing football country to host a game between two international teams makes for an interesting debate. It happens in London on a regular basis, the English capital has become something of an exhibition hub for reasons both practical and financial yet the football situation of the two cities can't really be compared.
The sheer variety of football shirts sported by fans in the Sports Hub showed the love for the world game that exists in this world city. Yet perhaps it would have been better if Neymar had been as effective as Keisuke Honda. As it is, his performance will be celebrated for years and could increase the local appetite for such exhibitions.
That would be unfortunate as even with the four-star display, there was something missing. The fans were from Singapore, the referee was from Singapore, the stadium is destined to become a Singapore landmark despite the absence of grass on the pitch (and, for a journalist, the much more serious absence of internet access in the press box) yet where were the Singapore players? It is an obvious question but needs to be asked again and again.
At the same time that the new Singapore National Stadium was laying out the red carpet for two foreign sides, the actual national team had made the journey to play Macau, a test that is not exactly what is required (but that is another debate).
China hosted Brazil and Argentina last Saturday in Beijing but at least the national team played the day before far away in Wuhan. This still doesn't sit quite right though an argument could be made that when two important guests come to stay, you give them the nicest bedroom you have for a night and sleep on the sofa. What you don't do is leave the house completely to go and sleep on the floor at a friend's nearby.
That is what Singapore did. It may be that Singapore playing Brazil would be a major mismatch, though the Samurai Blue hardly impressed, but then it will always be that way if the country does not pull in the same direction. It is not exactly a source of motivation for Bernd Stange's men when they can't train at their own stadium but while they are away, Japan and Brazil are allowed to do so.
It is hard to believe that Japan playing Brazil is a bigger game in Singapore than Singapore vs Brazil. It's great to see the big names at the Sports Hub but they need to be facing local names. It's as simple as that.
John Duerden has lived in Asia for more than ten years and is an expert on all things to do with Asian football.