SINGAPORE - Among the noisy spectators decked out in team regalia, an elderly man wearing a black T-shirt and cap sat quietly in the National Stadium last evening.
While those around him cheered and chanted as Brazil, or more specifically Neymar, ripped apart Japan 4-0 in an international friendly football match, Mr Joe Oh, 80, just sat there with a blissful smile.
It was the smile of someone who just had his most cherished dream come true. And he had to fight cancer to make it to the spanking new Sports Hub to support his favourite football team.
This was the moment he had dreamt of since secondary school. The retiree told The New Paper before the match started: "I've waited my whole life to see them play. This is a life-changing moment for me." He added: "I have cancer, so I may not have so much time left. I'm here now."
He was not sure what type of cancer he has, except that he was diagnosed with it last year and had to have his right lung and right kidney surgically removed. Mr Oh had never seen Brazil play live. But he has been a fan of the Selecao since following their matches on the radio in the 1950s.
Yesterday, more than 55,000 spectators packed the stadium to the rafters. The scene was colourful and the atmosphere boisterous. It was a stark difference for Mr Oh, who could hardly remember what was in the blurry TV footage of the matches he had seen in the past. All he remembers are the days spent watching Brazilian matches with his football buddies.
Asked why he was watching the match alone, Mr Oh said: "You are young, you don't understand. "As I grew old, one by one, my friends and fellow Brazil fans died. "Some moved on and have their own lives." He said his wife was not interested in football and his children were not free yesterday evening.
He had learnt of the exhibition match in the news and immediately asked his daughter to buy a ticket for him. Two weeks later, he received his $180 ticket for the most expensive seats in the stadium. "I was very, very happy. I came here three hours (before the kick-off) just to experience the atmosphere before the match. "I can wait. I've already waited for so long," he said.
Hundreds of spectators turned up hours before the 5pm entry time. For many, it was their first time at the new stadium, so they were busy taking pictures of the impressive structure. Mr Simon Teh, his wife and four children arrived at 3pm because they were worried that getting into the stadium would be tough after finding out that the tickets were sold out. "On the contrary, I don't think the crowd was too large. Everything went smoothly," said Mr Teh, 43, a civil servant. "The atmosphere with crazy fans is just like when Singapore played in the old National Stadium, except much bigger and more impressive."
Others like Ms Huda Ismail and Mr Malcolm Tai, both 25, helped contribute to the atmosphere by having their faces painted in Brazilian and Japanese flag colours respectively. Said Ms Huda: "I thought more people would be dressed like us. We brought a bag full of face paint to paint our friends later." I came here three hours (before the kick-off) just to experience the atmosphere before the match. I can wait. I've already waited for so long.