Three men will stand in defending champions Singapore's way of progressing past the group stage of the AFF Cup which starts tomorrow. In Raddy Avramovic, Dollah Salleh and Kiatisuk Senamuang, these three men have a past that is connected to Singapore.
One by one, the Singapore national footballers walked up to him, some hugging the wiry man with the craggy face, some clasping his hand in brotherly handshakes and all unequivocal in their respect towards him.
The man they affectionately nicknamed Yoda is back.
After nine years in charge of Singapore, Raddy Avramovic left in 2012 when his contract expired. After taking time off to recharge, he resurfaced in February as Myanmar's new national coach.
But the Lions still love and respect the Serb, greeting him warmly after their 4-2 friendly win over Cambodia on Monday - a match which Avramovic was using to scout on Singapore before his Myanmar take on the Lions in their ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup clash next Wednesday.
In his usual mumble, Avramovic said: "It's a nice feeling to be back. I have many friends here and good memories."
A no-nonsense disciplinarian on the pitch and training ground, Avramovic is known for his deadpan humour off it and as a father figure to many of the Lions.
Current captain Shahril Ishak, centre-back Baihakki Khaizan, goalkeeper Hassan Sunny and forward Khairul Amri all established themselves under the Serb.
The former Notts County goalkeeper said: "I worked with many of the players during my 91/2 years here and I hoped in that time, I helped to provide some guidance for them, not just as players on the field but also as a person with character.
"A lot of them have families now and I'm proud to see how they have grown up."
Avramovic still has ties with the island-nation. His only son, Ivan, is works for a local bank and lives here with his two grandsons.
But when he face the Lions at the National Stadium on Wednesday, all sentiments go out of the window. He said: "There's nothing you can do. It's part of life, you move on. You do your job and that's
This article was first published on November 22, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.