From left: Steven Tan, Fandi Ahmad, Rafi Ali and Lim Tong Hai acknowledge the partisan home crowd before kick off (photo by John Yeong/SSC).
Singapore Indoor Stadium, 14 October 2012 – It was supposed to be an event for former English Premier Football league (EPL) legends to meet with their fans in the region, a well-marketed tournament to underline the superiority of the EPL’s massive following in Singapore till today.
But Singapore’s football legends failed to read the script and crashed the party of the inaugural EPL Football Masters Singapore Cup, brushing aside a Liverpool Masters side boasting former legends such as Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, Phil Babb and Bjorn-Tore Kvarme (5-3), before drawing 3-3 with Andy Cole and Ronny Johnsen’s Manchester United Legends side en route to the Final where they only lost to a late goal from the EPL All-Stars.
Speaking ahead of the tournament Singapore’s Abbas Saad, hattrick hero of the 1994 Malaysia Cup Final, had told the media that he hopes tournaments such as these would bring back the passion and love for football among Singaporeans. His message was emphatically hammered home by the Singapore Masters team who delivered a performance of mammoth proportions that will be remembered for a long time.
Dressed in their all blue kit, a Singapore Masters Team that included Fandi Ahmad, Abbas Saad, Malek Awab, Lim Tong Hai, Steven Tan, Rafi Ali, Nasri Nasir and V Sundramoorthy took to the pitch to rapturous applause from a sold out crowd, and matched each of their European counterparts in every department for much of the evening.
Fandi Ahmad (centre, in blue) in action against the EPL All Stars at the EPL Masters Singapore Cup (photo by John Yeong/SSC).
It was little surprise then that when Singapore’s famous number 17 neatly dinked the ball inside the post for the team’s first goal of the night, the roof of the Indoor Stadium nearly came off at its hinges from the roar which erupted – one which has not been heard in the vicinity of Kallang for some 18 long years.
Against all odds and opponents far more illustrious than themselves, Singapore’s 1994 Malaysia League and Cup heroes were boosted by the support from the partisan home crowd and marched onto the tournament finals, taking every fan down memory lane, reliving the team’s Malaysia Cup glory days. The message is clear: Singapore football needs its fans. Not yesterday, but now. Now more than ever.