Thursday, February 08, 2007
Yes, I can finally scale the top of bukit timah hill and scream out that Singapore are the champions of Asean football!
After having missed the semi finals between Singapore and our arch rivals Malaysia, I was not going to miss out on the finals against Thailand.
Only problem was, I was stuck in camp. And I had no way of getting out to q up for the tickets.
I was desperate, so I called up a friend I knew I could count on. Mr Arya Alatsas. Its been a good four years already since I've known Arya, and what a pleasure the four years have been.
There he is, to the left of me, at Notre Dame in Paris.
He hardly took a moment to consider my request when I phoned him and said, "Hey, I need a favour. I'd like you to go down to the stadium and que up at the back of the likely zillions of people, to get me tickets for the game." He just did.
Thankfully, he got the tickets, and so thanks to him, 7 other good friends had the chance to don their country's colours and experience the kallang wave for the last time (Before the stadium gets torn down).
There it is! The famous kallang wave coming our way! And christopher getting in on the act.
The stadium, I am glad to say was packed to the max. 54,000 Singapore fans and 1,000 Thais.
To tell you the truth, I went into the match without any expectations whatsoever about the quality of the game. I'd been to the champions league final and other top EPL matches, and I had serious doubts this experience would trump those ones.
The atmosphere was charged with high emotion as 55,000 fans sat intently willing their team to victory. My own contingent of supporters (even the non singaporean) had come decked out in our national colours and intent on being the 12th man on the pitch ... all except one rebel ... who else could that be ... I wonder ...
Our dear friend, decided he wanted a hot dog early in the match, and so left his seat to go find one. In the 17th minute, whilst stanley in his orange shirt was ambling around the stadium looking for a frankfurter, Singapore scored through Noh Alam Shah,our national hero, who took a deflection, spun around and slotted the ball in low into the bottom right hand corner of the net.
We all went WILLLDDD!!!! First blood Singapore! Ole ole ole ole, ole ole!
The Lions did not rest on their laurels, and pressed on, looking alot more dangerous than the meek Thais.
Hopes were high, and we knew we would need another goal to consolidate our victory, especially in the first half.
It was not to be though, and almost immediatly after the interval, in the 50th minute, Thailand equalised.
The singaporean fans fell silent and it seemed all our energy had been sapped out of us.
Here is where I fell into a sort of contemplative mood. 54,000 Singaporeans for a significant period of time fell silent and were overwhelmed by the the united voice of 1000 Thais.
I was enraged, how could this be!? We should be supporting our team the most when they are being pressed, and looking for a way out of a knotty situation. And yet, I felt as though we had almost already accepted defeat as a very real possibility. How did we expect our own team to pull through when we did not even have the belief they could win?
It was the voice of a child, which rang out the loudest and clearest in our silence, and perhaps shamed by his outburst of passion, our fans cheered our team on, even when we din't complete our passes, or lost the ball. Our voices as one overwhelmed the valiant attempts of the Thai fans.
There and then I learnt the first lesson of the night: It's not so much about being in front, its about fighting the fight, and not giving up till the end. Its about giving it your all, and never fearing the odds.
The Lions perhaps willed on by our support, started to play better, and threatened the Thai's defence alot more. In the 82nd minute of the match, we got what we had all been waiting for. A penalty. Albeit a controversial one.
Noh Alam Shah was adjudged to have been pulled down as a cross was coming into the penalty box, and so the referee pointed to the spot, to the glee of our fans.
The Thais were furious and stormed off! What a buch of overgrown babies! Its like overturning the board once you've decided you can't win. The singaporean fans were furious, and galvanised by the Thai team's impetuousness, jeered at them. At one point of time singing this great song ... that went something like ... goodbye goodbye ...see you next year ... something like that ...
After having the cheek to storm off and waste 15 minutes of our time, the Thai team decided to casually stroll back onto the pitch and face the music. Right or wrong, the referee had made a decision, and their actions reflected very badly on a country whose people I have high regard for.
Nonetheless, we all waited with bated breath as Singapore's Fahruddin lined up the penalty.
Would he score and kick some Thai ass?
Damn right he will!!! The Thai keeper went the right way, but the precision and speed with which the ball is belted into the top right of the net is too much for him! The stadium finds it voice again, and Singapore have won the match!!!!
Final score 2-1!!!
It was just the first leg, and all of us knew we faced a challenge in Bangkok, but the Lions had battled hard and had never given up.
As we were having our after-match taiwanese porridge at the nearby Oasis restaurant, I thought silently to myself. Win or lose in bangkok, as long as the Lions played like they played today, I would still consider them champions.
There is a saying that goes nobody remembers second place. That night, I promised myself, whatever the outcome in Bangkok, I would write this blog entry, and proclaim my team as champions!
Hahaha, it's certainly a bonus we drew 1-1 in bangkok to win the title in the end, but true champions do not need a cup to prove they are champions.