It’s held at and around the Padang, it lasts a weekend, it brings in teams from around the world, it’s got beer girls and after-parties, but it’s not the F1 GP.
It’s a sporting event with a way longer history – 62 years – played at the Singapore Cricket Club’s grounds in front of city hall, and there is no more hallowed turf in Singapore than The Padang.
Though it’s multi-purpose nature stands it apart from cricket’s The Oval or Lord’s or rugby’s Twickenham, The Padang (literally translated as ‘The Field’) has a far longer history than the soon to be demolished National Stadium.
And although it doesn’t have the Kallang Roar, every single ACS boy my age and slightly younger will remember the Great Padang Riot of 1984, when a fired-up ACS boy decided to run the school flag around the field before the start of the U-17 National Schools Grand Final between ACS and Raffles Institution.
Around 1,000 ACS boys of ages ranging from 10-16 saw the flag flying around the field, over the heads of the RI boys on the SRC side of the Padang, when apparently one RI boy took offence at the taunt, and decided to trip the flag bearer.
One sharp-eyed fella from ACS saw that the flag bearer had fallen with the flag, and shouted something that ended with “… the bastards!”, and the next thing we knew, the entire contingent of ACS boys had swept across the field and grabbed anyone dressed in all-white, teachers included, and tried to pummel the daylights out of them.
Back in the grandstand, the headmasters of both schools smiled and nodded politely to each other. There was not much they could do, really, except wait for the riot police to arrive with water cannons.
I don’t think there’s been a more violent incident since, and we were quite happy to be invited to the SCC International Sevens tournament last weekend.
Well, I was invited, but I wrangled a pass for Naomi, Kai and our helper, hoping to make it a family outing. I was eager to show Kai the famous tournament his Papa played in 20 years ago as a schoolboy, even though he won’t remember a single thing from the weekend.
It was a good call – there were kids everywhere, and I don’t think the F1 race would have been as family-friendly – and that’s what we’re after in Singapore, aren’t we? More kids? More family events? Surely not gas guzzling, air polluting, eardrum bursting race cars going round and round?
Best of all, there were no road closures.
Plus the format of sevens rugby is great – 7 minutes a half, 10 minutes a half for the final makes for dunnohowmanygames a day for the 25 odd teams from far flung countries like Kenya, Fiji, Scotland, competing with the likes of the NS Wanderers from the town of Seremban in Malaysia, and the fast pace and unpredictability is even better – the Seremban boys beat the Scots on Day 1!
I had a great weekend showing my wife and son the grounds, and regaling them about how, back in my day, we used to have to take off our jerseys between games and lay them flat on the grass to dry before the next match.
It’s just so good to see one of the country’s oldest sporting events still going strong. More importantly, it’s gonna be around when Kai’s old enough to appreciate it. Or dare I hope, play in it.
P.S. Congratulations SA Vipers for your hattrick of titles.