Fandi, Sundram want Kallang Roar to return

Fandi, Sundram want Kallang Roar to return
Singapore football legends Fandi Ahmad is amazed with the new-look National Stadium.

Memories flood their minds when they are asked of the Grand Old Dame, but their recollections are sepia-tinted and hazy.

Names of opponents, dates and scores often elude both Fandi Ahmad and V Sundramoorthy, but there are two reasons the old National Stadium stand out for the two modern icons of Singapore football; the sheer number of people who packed the stands and the noise they made that shook the coliseum to its very core - the fabled Kallang Roar.

It was a different time and a different Singapore when Kallang rocked to a football beat.

But, as the new 55,000-capacity National Stadium prepares to open its doors to the beautiful game on Aug 16, when Italy's Juventus line up against Bernd Stange's Singapore Selection, both Fandi and Sundram remain hopeful of a revival.

"I have many memories of the stadium and all of them involve the Kallang Roar," said Fandi, who will be among Stange's coaching staff at the game.

"I wasn't supposed to play that day and I was very nervous before my first Malaysia Cup game," the former striker revealed of that January day in 1979 when he lined up to face Malacca.

"I was 16 and I had never seen so many people in the stands, and the crowd was a multi-racial one, coming together. "But that was a totally different time ­­- now you can watch 'live' games even on your phone."

While Sundram agreed, he hoped footballers today will receive the same kind of boost he did as a young floppy-haired player terrorising opposition defenders.

"When I stood in front of a full stadium as a player, there was a special feeling you got out on the pitch. It's hard to describe, but it's magical and it makes you play even harder," Sundram, now the coach of Malaysian side Negeri Semblian, told The New Paper.

He remembers many incidents at the old stadium, from scoring with a bicycle-kick against Brunei - forever immortalised on You Tube - to walking out during the opening ceremony of the 1983 and 1993 South-east Asia (SEA) Games in the iconic red blazer that the Republic's athletes still wear today.

"I've still got those five red blazers, but those days came to an end way too fast," he reminisced.

"The new stadium looks absolutely amazing, but it will take some time to bring Singaporeans back."

While Sundram has yet to step into the crown jewel of the Singapore Sports Hub, Fandi has and he is looking forward to actually kicking a ball on its turf.

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"I remember the wooden benches and the cement-look of the old stadium, but times change and I'm glad the new stadium has changed with it," he said.

"It's fantastic and the fact that the stands can be brought closer to the pitch, that could make all the difference for fans."

Sundram remembers how Kallang erupted when he scored the winning goal in the 2-1 win over a legendary Malaysia side at the 1983 SEA Games, a team that included goalkeeper R Arumugam, Santokh Singh and Soh Chin Aun.

Fandi scored the other goal in that opening-group fixture of the Games that saw Singapore win silver - still the Republic's best finish. And Sundram believes having the national team play there is vital to reviving the roar.

"What we've got now is a great facility and I hope fans come to see the Juventus game," he said.

"But I think when the national team start to play there, at (November's) AFF Suzuki Cup and the 2015 SEA Games, then you can start to see Singaporeans begin to treat it like the home of Singapore football, just like it was before.


This article was first published on August 5, 2014.
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