Amri ready to display fine touch

Singapore striker Khairul Amri will never forget the booming yet fatherly voice that drilled into him the simplest advice a footballer can get.

"Amri, get your first touch right first," the wiry man with the craggy face would often belt out from his customary spot on many a training field.

But tonight, the disciple will get no advice from his former master. Instead, Amri prepares for the unfamiliar sight of Raddy Avramovic in enemy colours, at the helm of rivals Myanmar.

"It's very weird because this man has been the biggest influence in my career," said the 29-year-old, who was handed his first international start by the Serb in the 2004 ASEAN Football Federation championship final.

"I want to beat his team but at the same time, I owe him so much," added Amri.

As many as seven of the Lions' expected 11 starters against Myanmar received their first caps from Avramovic.

Captain Shahril Ishak made his international bow just before the former Notts County goalkeeper took over in 2003 but, like Amri, he credits his one-time mentor for honing his talent.

Once a flair-based forward in danger of being stereotyped as an impact substitute, the 30-year-old became Singapore's chief offensive architect thanks to some timely advice.

"Raddy taught me basic but crucial stuff like looking up to see how the action unfolds, not to rush into passes and not to gelek (Malay for dribble) too much," said Shahril, the Most Valuable Player at the 2012 edition of the AFF Cup that Singapore won.

As they have done at M Hotel, the teams' base over the past week, the Singapore players will still exchange handshakes and polite nods when they see Avramovic at the National Stadium.

But the referee's whistle marks the end of niceties.

Shahril said: "We have to put our friendship aside. We have a responsibility to Singapore to win."

Amri plans to prove he has heeded all those instructions over the years.

He said: "It's time to show Raddy how my first touch looks like now."

This article was first published on November 26, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.