Lions purr over new den

Lions purr over new den

shamiro@sph.com.sg

The old National Stadium has a special place in the heart of Hariss Harun; it was where he made history.

Aged 16 years and 217 days, Hariss the boy came on against North Korea, eclipsing Fandi Ahmad as the youngest player to represent Singapore.

But he - like Safuwan Baharudin, 22, two players who will lead the Lions into the future - was blown away by the world-class facility that has replaced the Grand Old Dame.

Speaking to The New Paper after he featured in the Singapore Selection's 5-0 loss to Italian giants Juventus on Saturday, he looked forward to more contests at the new arena.

"It's got a big capacity and the stands can be brought close to the pitch."

"That's what you need - a football-specific stadium for football games - and I'm really glad that this world-class facility has that capability," said Hariss, now 23.

"The fans were so close to the pitch that you weren't just hearing them, it was like you could actually feel them - it was hair-raising when I first stepped out there on Saturday."

Former players, from V Sundramoorthy to Razali Saad, have described the sensation at the old facility as "electric" and "magical", and it appears the new stadium has the same effect on the current generation of players.

While the sounds from the crowd could not be heard from the dressing room, Safuwan admitted to getting goosebumps the moment he stepped into the tunnel before the match.

And he is looking forward to more of the same when the stadium hosts the AFF Suzuki Cup in November.

AMAZING

"We are all definitely thinking about the Suzuki Cup that's just around the corner, it will be amazing to try and retain our title in front of our own fans," he said.

"And I hope we can play more games there before that."

Both players are hoping that the pitch, which was not as lush as they had hoped and sandy in parts, will get better by then.

Hariss said: "The field was not in the best shape (on Saturday) but I'm sure that will be rectified soon, when the grass has time to grow."

"Then, this will be an absolutely perfect venue," added the midfield stalwart, who plays for Johor Darul Ta'zim in the Malaysian Super League.

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