New Kallang fever proves infectious to crowd

As the National Stadium rose as one to celebrate Khairul Amri's equaliser for Singapore, it was reminiscent of the Malaysia Cup days of the late 1970s for the 45-year-old Lions fan. The retirement of his heroes had caused him to drift away from the Lions but his first live match in almost two decades has immediately rekindled that flame.

"That was a real goosebump moment and the way everyone celebrated together was just amazing," said Murali, who had taken his three kids along for their first taste of the Lions.

Also soaking in the fever was dentist Ong Guo An, 30. He said: "I've never watched Singapore at the National Stadium before but I'm definitely going to watch the next few matches. "It's addictive and you get caught up in the atmosphere."

Even the players themselves were not immune to the sense of the occasion. Said forward Sahil Suhaimi who was making his AFF Suzuki Cup debut: "My family knows that I've been dreaming of this moment since young. It was proud for me to finally be able live that dream in front of them."

The Lions' first outing at their new den was also a special day for Rizal Isnon, 40. The delivery driver was a proud dad as he watched eldest son Rafael, 10, escort the players out of the tunnel.

Said Rizal, who wore his other son Haniff's toy lion hat on his head: "The whole family is here and there was no way we were going to miss this match even if my son wasn't one of the mascots. It's Singapore's first game and we want to show our support."

Supporters, many of whom wore faded Lions jerseys, gave a rousing rendition of Majulah Singapura that was matched by their vocal displeasure at some of the referee's decisions.

While their disappointment at the final whistle was palpable, retail assistant Nur Suhaidah said: "I'm sure we'll bounce back and we'll be here to support them."

This article was first published on November 24, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.