Malaysian FA Cup: Hail the 12th man

Malaysian FA Cup: Hail the 12th man

An away match, their team rated underdogs and after they had endured a rough experience at Terengganu last Saturday. Real put-offs.

But the Singapore fans did not abandon their team.

And they made themselves count.

If the victorious LionsXII side did their job on the Bukit Jalil Stadium pitch, these fans did their part off it.

Their numbers (probably about 6,000) were small compared to the Kelantan supporters, who "painted" the stadium red with supporters 12 times that number.

From the stands last night, they showed their faith, belief and support for the LionsXII.

And they celebrated in the end, convinced that the coach trip north was worth it.

Even upon arrival at their hotel in Subang, 25km south of Bukit Jalil, yesterday morning, not even the most cynical of football fans could deny the enthusiasm apparent in the Singaporean support camp.

Zakariah Yusoff, 62, paced around the lobby with a LionsXII scarf draped around his neck.

And when The New Paper approached him, his wrinkled exterior gave way to doe-eyed wonder.

"I've waited 21 years for this. I was a regular back in the '90s, travelling up every other weekend to see Singapore play," said Zakariah.

"I remember those days. We had a whole bunch of tunes we sang along to, and it was amazing.

"It's different now, but it's still our country.

"It's always fascinating when it's us against them, and it won't be any different later."

Plenty among the Singaporeans who travelled up with tour operators Akbar Hashim and Walter Koh were veterans, people who had seen it all back in the good old days more than 20 years ago.

They simply wanted to relive it all again, at a cup final after 21 years.

Some, like Ramli Mohd Ali, went one step further.

He roped in his wife Badhriah Abu Bakar, 36, and his two sons Rifqi Aqil, 12 and Raiyan Amani, 10.

"I was 17 when I attended the 1994 Malaysia Cup final between Pahang and Singapore.

"I went with my family back then, and now I'm here with my wife and kids.

"For me, bringing my kids along is just part of a simple rite of passage as a youngster.

"This is our country, our team, our own people. I just want to teach my kids to support them."

When asked who made the difference for the LionsXII, Rifqi excitedly proclaimed: "Faris (Ramli) and Sahil (Suhaimi)."

Faris proved his ability when, in the seventh minute, he latched onto Izzdin Shafiq's magnificent through-pass to calmly slot home the opener.

Sahil then bagged a brace after Wan Zack Haikal had equalised.

Akbar said: "We came with the sole aim of being the 12th man. That was all.

"We know when the team need us and we were there for them. They've made us all proud. But win or lose, it wouldn't have made a difference."

The cheered wildly, they applauded good moves, and they broke out into their famous "Ayuh, Singapura" chant).

That must have been sweet music to the players' ears.

Sufian Sidek, who like many other LionsXII fans came decked out in the team's replica jerseys, said: "This is amazing, I can't express how I'm feeling.

"It feels like 1994 all over again."

This article was first published on May 24, 2015.
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