Back-to-back Suzuki Cup titles on Lions' minds
Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Faris Ramli and Amirul Adli are three young guns raring to go as Singapore looks to nick a fifth AFF Suzuki Cup title.
Image credit: SportSG
by Alison Chin
Going into this year’s AFF Suzuki Cup as reigning champions thanks to an inspired performance from Radojko Avramovic’s charges in 2012, Singapore will be attempting not just to defend the title, but also extend their dominance with a fifth championship under new coach Bernd Stange.
Kiastisuk Senamuang’s Thailand trail the Lions by two, while causeway rivals Malaysia have one Suzuki Cup title to their name. Both these squads will be making the short trip to Singapore’s new National Stadium, having been drawn together with Stange’s team in Group B, an assembly of sides considered the “group of death” for this edition.
There perhaps could be no better way for Amirul Adli, the youngest in the squad at just 18, to be properly introduced to the Lions faithful, than to make his Suzuki Cup bow against one of the country’s fierce regional rivals.
“When I was a child, I watched a few Lions matches at the old Kallang Stadium. The Kallang roar and the supporters were really fantastic. For me, as a younger player, to be in the team that will be playing in the new National Stadium in the first major tournament, I am really honoured,” he shared.
“I think this will be a very special start for me in my career and I hope I will be able to help my team defend the title.”
Image credit: SportSG
Amirul’s Courts Young Lions teammate Faris Ramli and captain Al-Qaasimy Rahman are alongside him in the Singapore squad. The exciting young trio are naturally eager to work with established names like Baihakki Khaizan, Hassan Sunny and Shahril Ishak to keep the team’s winning legacy in the Suzuki Cup alive.
“I think the experienced players can guide us, teach us as younger players, about the Suzuki Cup, what it means. It’s like a World Cup to us in Singapore,” Faris stated.
Snapping a four-game winless streak with friendly wins against Laos and Cambodia last week, Stange’s team appear to be hitting their stride just in time for the cup, with winger Faris in especially inspired form. Nevertheless, Qaasimy is wary of the task ahead.
“Basically our group consists of Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia. Growing up through the ranks of my National Football Academy days, they were always tough opponents. Even Myanmar, they’ve been improving each year,” he pointed out.
“We’re going to take it a game at a time, but it’s always going to be exciting playing against Malaysia because they are our causeway rivals. The boys are really up for it and we’re pumped up for the first game.”
Singapore will hope to kick off this year’s tournament the way they ended the last, vanquishing the Changsuks as they did in the 2012 finals. With three points and regional pride on the line, Amirul is confident the Lions will pull it off in front of the home crowd.
“We’re in the group that can be labelled the group of death, consisting of a few of our rivals, especially Malaysia. Thailand will also be raring to beat us, because Singapore defeated them in the previous Suzuki Cup finals,” Amirul noted.
“It is a hard task, but it is possible because I believe in my team. Our team is really positive right now, and we have prepared well. We will give our best and show our fans what we can do.”
Echoing his fellow Lion, Qaasimy revealed that with the fans’ backing, the team would give all they have to hold the trophy aloft once more at the National Stadium.
“Well, it’s always the case where we, as players, can only do so much within the 90 minutes. But behind us, the fans, giving us support, cheering us throughout the 90 minutes or even in extra time, it always boosts us to play our best and not let anyone down,” the defender said.
Whether Qaasimy, Faris or Amirul get the nod from Stange for Singapore’s opener this Saturday remains to be seen, but the trio are confident and poised to do the red jersey proud.
“It’s definitely an honour to be representing the national team at a very young age and in front of our home crowd at the new national stadium,” Qaasimy stated.
“I’m actually really pumped up. I’m not putting any pressure on myself because I’ve been selected to play for a reason, so I’ll do my best when it comes to the first game, and take it one game at a time.”
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