Sundram demands fiery passion

If any of the 23 players in the Singapore Selection side dreams of causing one of the biggest shocks in football when they meet Arsenal in the Barclays Asia Trophy later this month, they will do well to take a page from their coach's book.

V Sundramoorthy (left) was 21 when he played for a Singapore side against Manchester United at the old National Stadium in 1986. The Red Devils won that exhibition match 2-0, but there was hardly anything "friendly" about it.

Ever the feisty competitor, Sundram, one of the biggest football stars in the country at the time, was sent off for a tough challenge on Clayton Blackmore.

Now a coach, the 49-year-old obviously does not want to see any of his men receive the red card on July 15, when the two sides meet at the National Stadium at the Sports Hub.

But he wants to see his players display fire and passion against the Premiership big guns.

"I also played against Bayern Munich in 1983, when I was 18. That game we won 2-1," recalled the man who was famously known as "The Dazzler" in his playing days.

"Those were just exhibition matches, but they are still among my best football memories.

"I hope the players will do their very best during the tournament, but, of course, I hope they don't get sent off.

"They can't afford to be starstruck. They can exchange jerseys after the match. But, during the game, they should show their opponents how good they can be."

The Singapore Selection will be captained by Shahril Ishak.

Their match with Arsenal will be the second of a double header on July 15, with Everton and Stoke facing off in the opening game earlier in the evening.

The respective winners will meet in the final on July 18, with the play-off for third scheduled as the curtain-raiser.

Four foreign stars from the S.League - defenders Kento Fukuda (Geylang International) and Sirina Camara (Home United), and strikers Nicholas Velez (Warriors) and Rodrigo Tosi (Tampines Rovers) - have been picked to beef up the "home" team. Sundram, nonetheless, is realistic about his team's chances.

"We are the underdogs. But the fans can expect full commitment from the boys," he said.

"Hopefully, when we put up a good fight, the fans will get behind us. We will need the 12th man."


The Singapore squad - largely comprising players from the national team - will be confident entering the tournament, especially after the stunning 0-0 draw with Japan in last month's World Cup qualifier in Saitama.

Sundram, who was part of the Lions' coaching staff in Japan, hopes the two exhibition games will provide good preparation for the national team ahead of their next qualifier, against Syria on Sept 3.

"The focus is to give the local players an opportunity against high-level opposition," said the Tampines Rovers coach.

"Arsenal are a passing team with many skilful players like Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Oezil.

"They can practically pass the ball into the net, so we have to stay disciplined and compact.

"After the Japan result, the players are motivated to play against top opposition in packed stadiums.

"We're all looking forward to this competition."

This article was first published on July 6, 2015.
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