Out to roar at Kallang

Out to roar at Kallang
Your view: The new National Stadium, which hosted the inaugural World Club 10s in June.

It was Singapore's very own Theatre of Dreams.

Ever since the Singapore Malays beat the Kelantan Malays 4-1 in front of 32,000 fans in the first football match held at the old National Stadium on June 24, 1973, the arena at Kallang has delivered many magical moments for the Republic's footballers and fans.

There were also tears of joy on occasion on the pitch, and on the terraces.

After the old stadium was demolished in 2010, the Lions still produced classic victories such as the 5-3 win over Causeway rivals Malaysia at the Jalan Besar Stadium in 2011.

While their temporary home provided the acoustics with the stands so close to the artificial pitch, it was never going to be the same as the Kallang Roar.

That is what national defender Baihakki Khaizan, 30, will be looking forward to once again on Saturday, when a Singapore Selection side take on Italian champions Juventus at the new National Stadium at the Sports Hub in Kallang.

There will be no time to mull over the poor draw against Felda United in yesterday's LionsXII's Malaysia Cup opener.

World Class

In less than 72 hours, Safuwan Baharudin and Baihakki will have their hands full with world-class strikers from the Serie A champions to deal with, hoping against hope that they can keep another clean sheet.

They will need no further motivation other than the fact that they will be the first Singaporean footballers to play at the new National Stadium.

Safuwan, 22, never played at the old National Stadium.

Speaking to The New Paper after the LionsXII's match against Felda last night at the Jalan Besar Stadium, the stylish defender said: "I'm honoured and excited to be part of the first team to play the first football game at the new stadium.

"Juventus will definitely be a tougher test than what we are used to, and as a Manchester United fan, I'm looking forward to taking on old boy Carlos Tevez."

The Singapore Selection, made up of local professionals and three foreign players from the Great Eastern Yeo's S.League - Sirina Camara from Home United and Miroslav Pejic and Nicolas Velez from the Warriors - will be led by national coach Bernd Stange.

Baihakki, who enjoyed numerous battles at the old National Stadium, including those memorable ASEAN final triumphs in 2004 and 2007 in front of a capacity 55,000 crowd, said: "It brings back fond memories and it's been such a long wait.

"I can't wait to go out there to experience it all over again.

"We know what Juventus did to Indonesia in that 8-1 win and we don't want that to happen to us. We will enjoy the game, be organised, and we want to score as well."

Like his two international colleagues, goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, who pulled off a point-blank save to spare the LionsXII the blushes last night, is also looking forward to Saturday's showdown.

"We are going to play world-class opponents in a world-class stadium. We will give our best, and we hope the fans will be there to support us," said Izwan.

This article was first published on August 14, 2014.
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