Kinabalu Sports Complex manager Firdaus Kassim (second from right) with his deputy Stewart Eddy Anak Jumpang (second from left) checking the state of the pitch at Likas Stadium. (NSTP/PIC BY KHAIRULL AZRY BIDIN)

RATED the No 1 pitch in the country by Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, Timesport disclose why the home venue of Sabah is loved by many in the local football fraternity.

Kinabalu Sports Complex, which maintains the Likas Stadium, manager Firdaus Kassim said the right use of substrate, soil and grass, among others, are vital from the beginning of a field construction.

“If we do it right from the beginning, then maintaining a pitch will be easy. Otherwise, ‘hangkang’ (quality turns bad).

“A good football ground must be covered with fresh grass that is durable such as Cow grass. The ground should be flat and able to absorb water.

“We have a dedicated team that are committed in maintaining the Likas Stadium pitch,” said Firdaus.

It includes controlling public bookings (for training and matches) and setting a detailed schedule for proper maintenance work.

The Kinabalu Sports Complex was built in 1975.

In 2001, the stadium underwent major renovation for the Malaysia Games in 2002.

The stadium also hosted exhibition matches involving English teams, Manchester United (1981) and Queens Park Rangers (2012).

“We are not surprised by the acknowledgement from people in regard to our pitch. It is because we always maintain its quality. We want the best for our field.

“Sometimes the maintenance work is not consistent but it does not adversely affect the pitch quality.

“This is because we have to allow the Sabah team to train and also host M-League matches. We also rent to the public, but we do it on our terms,” said Firdaus.

He said to ensure the field remains in good shape, the management will not take bookings when the ground is soft during the rainy season.

Firdaus disclosed that the management have two experienced groundsmen to look after the field.

“They are well-trained and committed to maintaining the pitch. We have a schedule to water and fertilise the pitch as well as maintaining the length of the grass.

“We normally refer to our groundsmen on whether the pitch can be used for training.”

Firdaus added that the pitch is watered more than once during the drought season to maintain its quality.

“We have not visited many stadium complexes, so we do not want to compare the Likas Stadium field with others. We appreciate the praises, and this acknowledgement will now make us more nervous in maintaining the pitch.”

Sabah coach Jelius Ating thanked the stadium management for their continuous effort in maintaining and improving the quality of the Likas Stadium pitch.

“I have to agree with others that we have the No 1 pitch in the country,” said the former state footballer, who helped Sabah win the Premier League this year.

When asked to describe an excellent football field, Jelius said: “It is important for the ground to be flat and covered with grass.

“The Likas Stadium has fresh grass and you will not see patches of dry grass or bald areas.

“When it rains, there is no pool of water. This, to me, is considered a beautiful pitch to play on,” he said.

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