I have won three ASEAN titles under our former coach Raddy Avramovic, but the last one was unique in the way that we won the 2012 Suzuki Cup only because we disobeyed him and defied his orders.
We were leading Thailand 2-1 in the first leg at Jalan Besar at the end of 90 minutes and Raddy wanted us to delay and hold out for the win, instead of being caught out by an equaliser. I can't really explain it but all the players felt good and confident going into the final. Even after conceding an equaliser to make it 1-1, we still felt we could score goals.
(Khairul) Amri scored a beautiful second goal and, even right up to the end, we were looking for a third goal. Shaiful (Esah) nearly scored from a free-kick in the 90th minute, but goalkeeper Kawin (Thamsatchanan) pushed it out for a corner. We could have wasted time and kept the ball in the corner, but instead we attacked. Shaiful's cross was deflected high and into the box. It went over Kawin, and I tried to head it in but missed. My attempt took me out of the pitch and when I turned back to look for the ball, I saw it come off Adul Lahso's chest and Baihakki (Khaizan) slamming the ball into the net. The Jalan Besar crowd went wild, the players went wild and, yes, I think for that one moment, Raddy also went crazy in his celebration.
Of course he didn't blame us for ignoring his instructions, and we left it at that. Luckily for us, that turned out to be the goal that won us the Suzuki Cup because we lost the second leg 0-1 in Bangkok. But, other than that memorable two-legged final, we strictly followed Raddy's instructions on almost every other occasion. Before the tournament started, the players had already sensed that it would be his last tournament with Singapore and we really wanted to give him the perfect send-off present by winning the competition. I was coming back from a dislocated shoulder and worked very hard to recover in almost half the time as the doctor first predicted.
Many of us had played in the Malaysian Super League and we were ready to take on hosts Malaysia in front of 80,000 hostile fans at the Bukit Jalil Stadium.
I know a lot of people were surprised that we beat Malaysia 3-0 in the end, but we knew we were capable of that. We were unlucky to lose to a late goal against Indonesia in the rain. Andik (Vermansyah) will say that his goal was intentional but I don't know if he meant to cross or shoot.
We were still confident that we could get the job done against Laos, but it could just as easily have turned out to be our worst nightmare after we went 0-2 down against a team we have always beaten in this competition. That match was my 100th and I remember thinking what a terrible way it would be to mark the special occasion with a historic loss to crash out of the cup.
Going into half-time 1-2 down - I had scored to reduce the deficit - there was a deathly silence in the dressing room. We were all speechless but, instead of scolding us, Raddy just told us to relax and be calm.
It helped that we realised we had enough time to turn defeat into a win, which we did. I scored another goal and Amri scored a great free-kick and Fazrul (Nawaz) got the winner with a diving header.
The Philippines matched us in the semi-finals and both teams defended well. We kept clean sheets in both legs and, in the end, Amri again proved the difference with the winning goal before we won the dramatic final against Thailand.
It is a privilege and honour to be one of just a few footballers to have won the competition three times and, after experiencing the support of the nation in all these tournaments, I'll never get tired of the rush of playing in the Suzuki Cup. With teamwork and hard work, hopefully we will be able to deliver another title this year.
This article was first published on November 21, 2014.
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