Causeway derby on the cards

Causeway derby on the cards
National footballers of the past, present and future gather at the new National Stadium. (From left to right) former national captain Razali Saad, former FAS president Ho Peng Kee, former national captain Lim Tong Hai, former national player Ahmad Sayuti, former national player R Suria Murthi, former national captain Samad Allapitchay, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, former national players Malek Awab, Shahri Rahim and Syed Faruk, and ex-internationals’ team manager Richard Wong.

SINGAPORE - They last played there in January 2010, and after four years, the Lions finally returned to their spiritual home yesterday.

National players past, present and possibly future set foot on the turf at the new National Stadium, the crown jewel of the $1.33 billion Singapore Sports Hub, for the first time.

Among them were players from the 1970s and 1980s like Samad Allapitchay and R Suriamurthi, who used to strut their stuff regularly in front of 55,000 at the old stadium at Kallang.

The entire squad of the Courts Young Lions (Under-23) and Singapore Cubs (U19), as well as players from the national women's team and SportCares, a youth enrichment programme initiated by the national agency Sport Singapore, were also present.

They took in the grand view of the new stadium from pitch side, snapped photos, and even kicked a football on the turf.

When the stadium's giant screen played a video montage of the national team's 2012 Suzuki Cup triumph in Bangkok, Khairul Amri wore a smile, as memories of the Lions' victory flooded his mind.

"If only that Suzuki Cup win in 2012 were here at home," said the LionsXII star, almost ruefully.

"I cannot imagine what it'll be like when this place is full.

"I know what it's like to win the Suzuki Cup in front of a full house at the old National Stadium, like we did in 2004 and 2006.

"But the moment I set foot here, it's like a whole different place."

Amri will probably get a chance to step out in front of a full house at the new stadium when a Singapore Selection team host Italian giants Juventus in an exhibition match on Aug 14.

But Amri knows there is a difference between playing an exhibition match, and a competitive fixture, like the ones the Lions will be involved in when the biennial Suzuki Cup rolls on in November.

With champions Singapore co-hosting this year's edition, the 29-yearold striker says the team have no excuses but to do well in front of a home crowd.

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