Everyone talks about my seven goals against Laos when they remember the 2007 Suzuki Cup. But, if you ask me, the most important contribution I made to our title-winning campaign then was in the second leg of our semi-final against Malaysia - and it wasn't even a goal.
The moment came in the 74th minute when my header was saved by the Malaysian goalkeeper, and Ridhuan Muhammad scored from the rebound. At that point, I had tears in my eyes. We were 1-0 down and on the verge of going out, and everyone was clueless as to where we were going to get the goal from. Luckily, Ridhuan scored and we went on to win on penalties to get to the final, and the rest is history.
I'm used to people talking about that Laos game by now. When foreign imports join a club I'm at, my teammates will tell them I'm the guy who scored seven goals in that 11-0 win. It's funny to think that, despite ending up as the tournament's top scorer with 10 goals, I might not have even played because of a bad ankle injury.
I remember, in one training session about two months before the Suzuki Cup, I suddenly collapsed on the field, screaming in pain. As the tournament got closer, I would go to Tan Tock Seng Hospital for acupuncture treatment after training every morning. I'd have more than 50 needles stuck down my right leg. A few days before our first game, I even went to (team captain) Aide Iskandar's room and told him I couldn't make it and that I would rather give up my place to someone fitter.
But Aide and S Subramani convinced me the team needed me and, when I spoke to Raddy (Avramovic, former Singapore coach), he told me the same thing. So I stayed in the team, because it's in my nature to try my best for people who put their faith in me. And Raddy, brilliant a coach as he is, made changes to the team to accommodate me. For the first time, he told me not to press from the front. All I had to do was to concentrate on getting into good positions in the box. We started the tournament with a goalless draw with Vietnam, which wasn't a bad result as we avoided defeat by a tricky opponent. Moreover, Raddy knew we could capitalise in our next game against Laos, who would have used up all their energy in their first game against Indonesia.
So he put some younger players in the starting 11, who were fresh and eager to prove their worth. Even though I was carrying an injury, he probably put me in so I could build up my confidence by scoring a couple of goals. But I'm sure it wasn't on the script for me to get seven. A lot of people remember how I asked to be substituted after scoring my fifth goal. I tried to use my ankle as an excuse, because I really felt for the Laos players. It was just one of those nights for me. Just look at the last goal. Even though I miskicked the ball, it bounced off the ground and went in off the post. Talk about luck.
When people say it's a magnificent feat, I always tell them they should watch the video again and look at all the magnificent assists. Everyone made it so easy for me. I was playing with 10 other players whose desire and hunger were at a maximum. And I hope the class of 2014 will have the same desire and hunger. When people say it's a magnificent feat, I always tell them they should watch the video again and look at all the magnificent assists. Everyone made it so easy for me. I was playing with 10 other players whose desire and hunger were at a maximum.
This article was first published on November 21, 2014.
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