Jalan Besar Stadium

Singapore Infopedia


Jalan Besar Stadium is a well-known landmark located at Tyrwhitt Road in the Kallang area.1 Since its official opening on 26 December 1929, the stadium had held many sports events, including Malaysia Cup tournaments. From 1999 to 2003, the original facility underwent a S$30 million expansion to become a sports complex comprising a new football stadium, and facilities such as a swimming complex, a gymnasium, a multi-storey carpark and a food court.2

Jalan Besar Stadium was opened on 26 December 1929 by the president of the Municipal Commission, R. J. Farrer. The inauguration was followed by a football match between the Malayan Chinese and Malayan Asiatics teams. The former won the match with a score of 3-2. The Jalan Besar Stadium hosted many sporting events such as football, hockey and rugby matches.3

During the Japanese Occupation (1942–45), Jalan Besar Stadium was used by the Japanese as one of the mass screening sites for Sook Ching, an operation carried out to purge anti-Japanese elements. The stadium remained open throughout the Occupation years and was used as a centre to teach civilians the Japanese language.

After the war, the stadium reverted to its original function and was used for political rallies and key events such as the inaugural Singapore Youth Festival in 1967, and the first Singapore Armed Forces Day parade on 1 July 1969.4

In the 1980s, the stadium was the venue for important matches in the domestic National Football League (NFL). The NFL was poorly attended, and crowds at Jalan Besar only averaged about 200.5 However, well-known Singaporean footballers such as Majid Ariff, Quah Kim Song, Dollah Kassim, R. Suria Murthi, Wilfred Skinner and Fandi Ahmad have all played at the stadium.6 Regional and international events such as the annual Pesta Sukan (“festival of sports” comprising numerous sporting events), the Malayan rugby classic, the Asian Rugby Football Union championships, the Malaya Cup (1932–66), the Malaysia Cup (1967–73) and football matches were also hosted at Jalan Besar before the National Stadium was built in 1973.

Renovation and reopening
In 1999, the original stadium underwent a major renovation. It was expanded into a sports complex at a cost of over S$30 million. The complex included a new football stadium and facilities such as a swimming complex, a gymnasium, a multi-storey carpark and a food court.The new football stadium had a seating capacity of 6,000 and a roof suspended over the southwest grandstand.9 The new Jalan Besar Stadium was reopened to public in March 2003, when it hosted a football match between the under-23 Young Lions Singapore team and a team from the Maldives, in which the former won 4-1.10

Developments in Singapore football and further improvements
After the expansion in 2003, the Jalan Besar Stadium continued to serve as a major venue for football in Singapore. The stadium housed the National Football Academy, the headquarters of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and the S-League.11 It was also the home and training ground of the Young Lions. The stadium was a competition venue for the 2006 Lion City Cup, the 2009 Asian Youth Games, and the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010.12 

The stadium was closed again in late 2004 so that the grass pitch could be replaced with an artificial turf.13 The replacement was funded by the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) Goal Project, and was considered necessary as an artificial turf could withstand wear and tear better than a grass field. After it was reopened in February 2006, it was closed for another resurfacing project in December 2008, which cost US$400,000 (S$576,000) and was again funded by the FIFA Goal Project. This time, the artificial turf was replaced with a two-star grade pitch, which offers better shock absorption and more closely resembles a real grass pitch. The stadium was reopened in January 2009.14

26 Dec 1929:
 Jalan Besar Stadium opens.15

1942–45: The stadium is used as a Sook Ching mass screening site and language centre during the Japanese Occupation.16 
1967: The stadium hosts the opening ceremony of the inaugural Singapore Youth Festival.17
1973: The National Stadium is built and replaces Jalan Besar Stadium as the venue for football events.18
1996: Launch of Singapore’s first professional soccer league, the S-League. Jalan Besar Stadium becomes the home ground for the Police Sports Association team, later known as Home United and eventually, Lion City Sailors.19
Dec 1999: An exhibition match featuring ex-internationals commemorates the closing of the old stadium. The stadium is then refurbished and becomes part of the Jalan Besar sports complex.20
Mar 2003: The stadium re-opens with a football match between the Young Lions and a team from Maldives. It also serves as the home ground of the Young Lions.21
2006: The stadium replaces its grass pitch with an artificial turf.22
2009: The artificial pitch is replaced by a higher-quality turf.23
2010: The stadium is one of the venues for the inaugural Youth Olympic Games held in Singapore in August.24
2021: The artificial turf at the stadium is upgraded to GreenFields Evolution Pro 40 Pitch, which offers the highest playing performance for professional-level football. The installation is provided as part of the FIFA Development Project.25

1. National Heritage Board, Singapore, Jalan Besar: A Heritage Trail (Singapore: National Heritage Board, 2006), 44. (Call no. RSING 959.57 JAL-[HIS])
2. Santokh Singh, “$30M Facelift for Jalan Besar,” Straits Times, 12 January 1999, 36; Marc Lim, “Mah Pitches for Jalan Besar,” Straits Times, 26 February 2003, 10; “Football,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 27 December 1929, 20. (From NewspaperSG)
3. “Football”; Santokh Singh, “$30M Facelift for Jalan Besar,” Straits Times, 12 January 1999, 36. (From NewspaperSG)
4. National Heritage Board, Singapore, Heritage Trail, 8, 10; Jackie Sam, "President Launches Fete at Colourful Ceremony at Jalan Besar Stadium," Straits Times, 18 July 1967, 7; R. Chandran, " 1,500 in Big Parade," Straits Times, 2 July 1969, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
5. “Clubs Asking FAS to Pay for Poor Gates,” Straits Times, 17 June 1986, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
6. Godfrey Robert, “Thanks for the Happy Memories, Jalan Besar,” Straits Times, 12 December 1999, 42; Godfrey Robert, “Platform of a Thousand Memories,” Straits Times, 13 December 1999, 57; Peter Siow, “Selamat Jalan,” New Paper, 12 December 1999, 59. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Singh, “$30M Facelift for Jalan Besar”; National Heritage Board, Singapore, Heritage Trail, 44; “No Doubts Now Pesta Is a ‘Mini’ Games,” Straits Times, 13 July 1971, 25; "Fijians Help South to Win," Straits Budget, 2 February 1956, 19; Ken Jalleh, "A Most Precious Silver," Singapore Free Press, 26 December 1960, 10 (From NewspaperSG); “Pesta Sukan,” Sport Singapore, accessed 11 October 2023, https://www.sportsingapore.gov.sg/sports-education/sporting-events/pesta-sukan/.  
8. Singh, “$30M Facelift for Jalan Besar”; Lim, “Mah Pitches for Jalan Besar.” 
9. National Heritage Board, Singapore, Heritage Trail, 8; Lim Say Heng and Aisha Hamza, “Million-Dollar Makeover,” New Paper, 5 January 2009, 42–43. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Marc Lim, “A 4-1 Win, But That Is Not the Real Story,” Straits Times, 5 March 2003, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Lim, “Mah Pitches for Jalan Besar”; Stanley Ho, “FAS Officials Gives Jalan Besar Stadium the Thumbs-Up,” Today, 26 February 2003, 37. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Ho, “FAS Officials Gives Jalan Besar Stadium the Thumbs-Up”; Christopher Ong, “Lion City Cup Kicks Off Today,” Straits Times, 5 June 2006, 40; Amanda Tan, “The Road to AYG,” Straits Times, 29 June 2009, 72; Terrence Voon, “Big Benefits for Singapore,” Straits Times, 30 April 2009, 38. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Alvin Chua, “Jalan Besar to Undergo Facelift,” Today, 13 September 2004, 33. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Shamir Osman, “A Better Green for Jalan Besar,” Today, 11 September 2008, 49; Lim Say Heng and Aisha Hamza, “Million-Dollar Makeover,” New Paper, 5 January 2009, 42–43. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “Football.”
16. National Heritage Board, Singapore, Heritage Trail, 8.
17. Jackie Sam, “President Launches Fete at Colourful Ceremony at Jalan Besar Stadium,” Straits Times, 18 July 1967, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
18. Singh, “$30M Facelift for Jalan Besar.”
19. Tay Cheng Koon, “PM Kicks Off S’pore’s Pro-Soccer League,” Straits Times, 15 April 1996, 1; Joe Dorai, “Lions Pick Geylang, Tiong Bahru for ‘Dens’,” Straits Times, 14 August 1995, 33; “Police FC,” Straits Times, 14 April 1996, 39. (From NewspaperSG)
20. Siow, “Selamat Jalan”; Lim, “Mah Pitches for Jalan Besar.”
21. Lim, “4-1 Win”; Lim, “Mah Pitches for Jalan Besar.”
22. Chua, “Jalan Besar to Undergo Facelift”; Osman, “Better Green for Jalan Besar.” 
23. Lim and Hamza, “Million-dollar Makeover.”
24. Voon, “Big Benefits for Singapore.”
25. "New Artificial Turf System Installed at Jalan Besar Stadium," Football Association of Singapore, 15 March 2021. (From NLB’s Web Archive Singapore)

Further resource
Chua Chong Jin, A Nation at Play: 25 Years of the Singapore Sports Council (Singapore: Times Editions, 1998). (Call no. RSING 796.095957 NAT)

The information in this article is valid as of August 2023 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


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