IT WAS as if the football fever of the 1970s and 1980s was back.
More than 2,000 people gathered at Changi Airport to welcome back the LionsXII heroes, whose unexpected win made them the first foreign side to capture the Malaysian FA Cup.
A deafening roar greeted the victorious team, who beat Kelantan 3-1 last Saturday, as camera bulbs flashed away.
The manner of the win, in an intimidating atmosphere against a team with more experience and foreign stars, has convinced coach Fandi Ahmad and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong that it could lead to a change in fortunes for Singapore football.
"This will be a good beginning of a new football era. Hopefully, young people will be inspired by this," said Fandi, who was feted by the adoring crowd, reminiscent of scenes in 1980 and 1994 when he helped Singapore to the Malaysia Cup.
Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, who paraded the trophy with Mr Wong at the airport, said: "This really brings back memories. You can see the reaction of the crowd. I think it's not just the older generation but pretty (much) all (of) Singapore."
Mr Wong added: "It will be a very significant boost for our SEA Games preparation. I'm sure our SEA Games team will get a lot of confidence from what the LionsXII have done."
The LionsXII, a developmental squad made up mostly of young national players, also tasted success in 2013 when they won the Malaysia Super League. But whether there will be more magical moments made across the Causeway is up in the air for now as the agreement for Singapore to play in Malaysian football expires at the end of this season.
Additional reporting by Lok Weng Seng and Ho Si Rui
SPECIAL PRESENT FOR JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS
Congratulations to the LionsXII for such a hard-fought and well-deserved victory. We are very proud (of) all they have achieved. They went in as underdogs, but they showed all of us what they were made of and how they could achieve victory despite the odds against them... It's certainly a very special present for our golden jubilee celebrations and, hopefully, we can add one more to it when we host the SEA Games very soon.
- Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong
FULL TIME! LionsXII 3-1 Kelantan LionsXII win their first-ever Malaysia FA Cup after a brave performance tonight! http://t.co/9l4FvZkKd9— LionsXII (@FAS_LionsXII) May 23, 2015
This article was first published on May 25, 2015.
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