I've always followed the Singapore Premier League (SPL) — watching the glory days of the SAF FC (pre-Warriors FC) and Tampines Rovers in the S-League, then the recent dominance of Albirex Niigata Singapore.
But I have never attended an SPL game IRL…until last weekend, when I sat in the stands for the top-of-the-table clash between Lion City Sailors (LCS) and Tanjong Pagar United.
It's only their second year, but The Sailors (Singapore's first privatised football club) won the league title, wrestling it away from dominant Albirex on the last day of the season.
Plus, I was extra interested to catch them "live" at Jalan Besar Stadium after speaking to Lion City Sailors superfan, Aiman.
A little bit of context to the match
The defending SPL champions suffered a shock lost earlier this season to Geylang, but they steered their way back on course with 3 wins and 1 draw (against Albirex), heading into this battle against the Jaguars.
Tanjong Pagar United remained the only unbeaten SPL side coming into this match. In their last game, they made a stunning comeback from 3-0 down against Tampines Rovers to draw the contest at 3-3.
After this match, the league will take a break for a month and return on 7 May. LCS will be travelling to Thailand and making their maiden voyage to the Asian Champions League - they are set to play against my favourite Japanese team, Urawa Red Diamonds there.
How to buy a Singapore Premier League match ticket?
Follow your favourite team on their socials to know when tickets are released.
For Lion City Sailors, tickets are prioritised to Season Pass Holders first, then to club members, before it is sold to the general public. LCS tickets can be purchased on Sistic.
Some teams allow you to buy tickets on their home ground.
Getting to Jalan Besar Stadium
The birthplace of Singapore football is surrounded by a few MRT stations: Lavender, Bendemeer, and Farrer Park - they are all different train lines too.
It was my first time not only at 100 Tyrwhitt Road but also at a purpose-built stadium designed for football. I didn't know I would be so close to the action 😱.
At the entrance, just scan your TraceTogether QR code and show your ticket. There will be a quick bag-check. No water bottles are allowed.
Soaking up the atmosphere
I arrived an hour early before kick-off, so there were still plenty of seats to choose from.
A tip from LCS superfan Aiman: Sit between rows C and D. You're quite central to the action, seated behind the LCS substitutes bench. If you're closer to the front row, you will be next to The Crew, diehard LCS fans leading the crowd chants throughout the match.
My heart skipped a beat when I saw Singapore captain Hariss Harun before my eyes. Sadly, midfield youngster Saifullah Akbar didn't play a part in this match.
The emcee hosted a fun pre-match trivia game for the fans (but no prizes, why leh?) while both teams warmed up on the pitch.
First half: Ole Allez Allez!
I was just getting used to clapping along and singing the club chants when the Sailors' $2.67 million man Diego Lopes scored the first goal in the 8th minute.
The SPL's most expensive player and first multi-million signee added another in the 28th minute, then Shahdan Sulaiman scored the third 12 minutes before half-time. Even The Crew was shocked by their team's emphatic performance.
I was surprised to learn that The Crew had songs for every player in the team. Their loud cries really added to the "big-fight feel" of the game, especially as the crowd sung along.
Second half: Come on, boys in blue!
Everyone was just returning to their seats from the half-time break when Kim Shin-Wook immediately added a 4th goal.
Tanjong Pagar managed to claw one back, but the contest was undoubtedly over after Hafiz Nor netted a 5th goal. Substitute Maxime Lestienne, who came on for LCS in the second half, sealed the contest with a 6th goal in stoppage time.
I have to salute The Crew for their amazing dedication. They kept on singing throughout the entire match — non-stop. (I was exhausted but I still clapped along.)
Also, I realised I was sibei lucky: my first SPL match turned out to be a seven-goal thriller!
At the end of the match, the Sailors gathered in front of the home crowd to acknowledge the fans — what a great gesture from the squad.
Watching Lion City Sailors IRL was way more exciting than I imagined it would be. I absolutely loved joining in the crowd chants and cheering along when the team scored.
Speaking of chants, The Crew kept on going all the way into the night, singing along outside the stadium entrance in celebration of their amazing victory.
I will return to Jalan Besar Stadium this season for sure - along with my football lovin' bae. (Yep, scoring a football-lovin' bae - that's a sweet goal.)
This article was first published in Wonderwall.sg.