This is NOT Anfield

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By Les Tan/Red Sports

Singapore vs Liverpool

Our Singapore Lions were reduced to bit players in their own arena. (Photo 1 © Les Tan/Red Sports)

Have you always gone to a place you thought was home but suddenly felt unwelcome?

That was the bizarre, and some would say, humiliating situation the national football team found themselves in on Sunday night.

When they walked out to the pitch, the emcee bellowed “Welcome to Anfield!”

The 45,000 crowd was a sea of, not Singapore, but Liverpool red.

Then the crowd broke out in one voice with the Liverpool anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

The song, a tune from a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, completed the theatrical effect, and hammered home the fact that the Singapore team were just secondary extras in a show about a team whose starting XI earns multiples more than the average fan who paid to watch them.

No one should begrudge Liverpool fans their lovefest with their favourite team but we should not have let our national team play.

Find a collection of players, give them nondescript jerseys and let them get hammered 5-0, but why submit a team wearing the Singapore national flag to such insulting treatment?

“This would not happen in Australia,” said Michael Johnson of the Singapore Slingers, who is an Australian. “Australian fans may like Liverpool, but if Liverpool played our national team, they would get behind the national team. No questions.”

“I didn’t feel comfortable,” said Aleksandar Duric, the 39-year-old national forward who was the only Singapore player singled out for praise by Rafael Benitez for his 45-minute performance in the first half.

“I didn’t see any Singapore jersey in the crowd,” he recounted. “And when they said “Welcome to Anfield”, I thought, ‘What are they talking about?'”

When Singapore’s Mustafic Fahrudin gave Javier Mescharano a muscular challenge, the crowd voiced its disapproval. Mescharano then slapped Fahrudin in retaliation in an off-the-ball incident which the linesman saw, but the referee told the Singapore players to leave it because it’s just a friendly.

Noh Alam Shah, who captained the team in the first half, had mixed feelings.

“Yup, it’s a little weird when I stepped on to the field and the whole stadium is cheering for the away team. But I understand the situation very well as it’s not like Liverpool would come here every year. So I think they deserve to show their support to Liverpool. Despite all that, I am still happy as they had at least reserved some cheers for us. Next game, they will be supporting us once more.”

The irony was that on the same day of the Liverpool game, prime minister Lee Hsien Loong opened the Sengkang Sports and Recreation Centre, emphasizing that “sport is a good unifier… because it creates an emotional connection which not many other activities can do as well. And when our national team wins, or sometimes loses, then we share in the joy and the glory, or sometimes the tears.”

In this instance, some clear-eyed folks who don’t smoke the English Premier League weed saw it for what it was: a collective national insult.

If the organisers wanted to turn Kallang into the Kop, that’s their commercial prerogative. They hired the stadium and ran the whole show. The Football Association of Singapore had no say in the running of the event and the Singapore national team even had to buy their own tickets to the game for their family members.

But we should have some pride and not have let our national team play under such belittling circumstances.

We should know who we are and where we come from.

We are Singaporeans, not Liverpudlians.

And this is Kallang, NOT Anfield.

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Discussion37 Comments

  1. @jan
    For the kids, I have to agree with you. You have to say it feels weird to have a Liverpool all over in the Kallang Stadium. Wonder how you would feel if someone goes into your house and said it’s his or hers to other guests. Just feel sad for Singapore soccer and angry to those who elevates Liverpool FC to a so high level.

    @lexigon
    There is a difference between rough play and unsporting play.Look, they came here for a game, then expect a game. The treatment they received was the same as what their rivals in EPL would give. And please don’t try and turn my own words againts me. Please make a valid point instead of taichi.:) Oh, please explain patriotism. Thanks.

  2. @addymuliady

    Since when is football for “rammers”? If that’s the case, our NT would have been stepping on the wrong court. They should be playing American football. By the way, I did not mean “our NT lay down there and let Liverpool players do their skills”. That goes to show you belittle our NT by implying that we can only play with a strong team by using unsporting style of playing. Who’s the one that is showing “unpatriotic feelings” now?

  3. @addymuliady – The thing is, the organsiers already said prior to the event that they were creating an Anfield experience for the fans in Singapore – why are people sounding oh so surprise all of a sudden? Why didn’t anyone raise an issue prior to the event – from the level of ‘passion’ I’m seeing in these comments, why not boycott the whole thing? I’m just beginning to question the real intention and the hidden agenda of people behind these criticisms.

    Maybe Singaporeans need to learn to be happy for others. For many of our kids who had gone for the event, they may never have a chance to go to Anfield in their lifetime (or at least before Liverpool moves to Stanley Park) because of financial constrains. There are people who are contented with a replicated experience in Singapore, why fault them? There are many things we can find fault with this event, but its invalid to put them down in this way.

    • Les

      I am tired of reading comments referring to Liverpool fans as “Liverfool fans”. I don’t think it’s funny and it’s not respectful. You want to engage and make a point, please go ahead but no need to insult others while doing so.

      This is not that kind of forum.

      I just deleted one such comment and all such comments will be deleted from now on.

  4. @jan
    The most of the Singapore Liverpool fans have already stooped low by cheering when they cheered upon hearing the emcees’ “Welcome to Anfield” mantra on our home soil. Don’t you feel something wrong here?

    @lexigon
    Since when soccer is for sissy? You play to win, even if it’s an exhibition match. Why? Because you’re in the NT colours. Might as well our NT lay down there and let Liverpool players do their skills. Mustafic is simply saying, come on Liverpool show what you are made of. And they did. You pay a minimum of $88 to see two team play or strut their athletics bodies around the field? Might as well do this, buy the tix from Sistic, get the Spice Boys to show up Probable vs Reserves so the Liverpool fans can get all-Liverpool action.

  5. @mini – Good observations. The fervour for the Lions went downhill after exiting the Malaysia Cup in mid-90s, which was when the EPL was brought into Singapore giving Liverpool fans immense exposure of their club. Coincidentally, the last 10 years for Liverpool was as trying as the Lions, too. The difference was that in recent years, Liverpool managed to revive pride in their supporters – winning the Champions League and making the final twice in 3 years – while us Singaporeans are still waiting for a revival of the Kallang roar.

  6. Even though I’m a Liverpool fan, I agree with Les. Its sad…

    Yet this issue masks what I perceive to be a deeper problem with Singapore football – that it is dying.

    I do not believe that this would have been the case had this friendly been held during the Malaysia Cup days.

    Then, there was real pride in our national team. Then, there were real local football heroes who captured the imagination of the people, especially the young people.

    With the end of the Malaysia Cup, interest in local football has all but waned. There was an interim period after the end of the Malaysia Cup days and the start of the S-League where local football was non-existent. This coincided with the rise of telecast (EPL) football on TV. Local football has not recovered since.

    Further, the standard of our play (national team) has ironically dropped. This is a contentious point because our FA officials will always point to ASEAN Cup trophies and progress in World Cup qualifiers as a counter argument. Yet how long can we sustain this FTS policy? Would our national team be able to perform as well without the FTS?

    I have always felt that we should bring back the Malaysia Cup. This is going to be the only way to re-ignite loyalty, passion and interest in local football. It is with the Malaysia Cup that local icons can once again be created. It is with the Malaysia Cup that the imaginations can be captured once again. It is with the Malaysia Cup that perhaps, our arm chair critics can be coaxed off their seats and onto the benches of the National Stadium.

    BRING BACK THE ROAR!

  7. I think that since it is not an international fixture, it should be taken with a pinch of salt. At the end of the day, our local soccer scene is not up there together with the EPL and whatever not. Therefore, coming from a fan, if I were to pay money, I’d only watch n support the very best.

    I am an Arsenal fan and if I were to attend a Singapore vs. Arsenal game, I’d be behind Arsenal all the way because it is not a matter about national pride. However, if Singapore were to play Thailand in the Tiger Cup, I’d support Singapore without a doubt.

    Do not make a big issue about an inconsequential friendly, at the end of the day, it is not a proper international. I’m sure that if Singapore were to play England one day, we would stand behind Singapore all the way.

    Have a good day fellas. 🙂

  8. Lols…I didn’t know that winning the M’sia Cup are bigger den winning the Asean Trophy,

    So adam, u mention that Singapore soccer standards have dropped drastically so does it mean that beating Selangor or Pahang are better den beating Thailand and Vietnam.

    What a joke.

  9. Dear all, personally I think the whole thing is blown out of propotion! I DO NOT believe that Singaporeans are not supportive of the Nat team. Those who went to the stadium to watch the Tiger Cup vs Vietnam would agree with me. Unless those went to Tiger Cup were not those who went to the Liverpool game. The overwhelming support to Liverpool was just another way of showing their hospitality, and towards the club some have supported for decades(please be informed that I am NOT a Liverpool fan). I am sure that Singapore would cheer if anyone had scored-like Indra when playing against Man U. For the jeering part, it was perhaps a gesture to show their displeasure for witnessing poor sportsmanship in a friendly game(no offence to anyone). However, we must look at the intention of the tackle-a mistimed tackle while trying to get the ball, or to “flex one’s muscles” in front of one of the world’s best midfielders? If is the later, Mustafic has to be reiminded that he is playing against the Argentine capt who plays in the toughest league in the world-against the hard man/bad boys like Rooney, Lampard, Scholes, Butt and Cahill, not to mention Essien.
    It is also quite “understandable” if the support was swayed towards Liverpool for the various reasons:
    1. They paid $88 to see who? You know the answer better than I do.
    2. The exposure of Liverpool vs Team Singapore. Liverpool plays abt 60 games in a year? What abt Singapore(how many players can you name in the Singapore team)? Probably they have heard and seen(on TV) so much of them that they would cherish every opportunity to watch them play live.
    In a nutshell, I think the Singapore fans are still very supportive of the Nat Team and will continue to support them, despite the decreased in standards of play and the increased number of “local citizens”.
    Thats my two cents worth and I hope that I have not offended anyone/team.

  10. about the duric statement, there were quite a good number of fans who came in the singapore top, actually. and the organisers, i think, did go a bit too deep into the thing about the kop coming to asia. if they were planning to play ynwa when the players walked in, why not play majulah singapura right afterwards. and regarding jan’s comment, i have to agree, there were few, if any, malicious jeers directed at the singapore players. but still, this is kallang, thanks for reminding us. all the best to spore for the asian cup qualifiers and sea games. ynwa.

  11. just to answer addymuliady. i believe if lions were to score, he will definitely be cheered. This is like once in a blue moon goal against the 1 of the big 4. Also, Mustafic didn’t give a little nudge; it is a extraordinarily violent nudge. He practically run from the back court and go on a rampage. That is not little, it is so unsporting. Try standing there passing a harmless ball to a teammate while suddenly knocked away as a 80kg guy accelerating like some rocket charged towards you. I hope you will have second thoughts upon his action.

  12. @addymuliady – The Lions were not booed, on the contrary, I heard the less-than-effective Liverpool players were being booed. I think you’ve somewhat belittled us Singaporeans – as much as they weren’t there to support the Lions, had the Lions scored, I do not think Singaporeans will stoop that low to boo their own countrymen.

  13. i think things have been blown out of proportion….let’s not talk about patriotism when other things in life should really matter. as of one of the contirbution here and i quote ” Perhaps in the future, let FAS do the organising. I am sure the FAS will not neglect local sensitivity.”

    You probably have not been following developments of soccer in Singapore. From the heydays of the Malaysia Cup till now…singapore’s soccer standards and popularity have dropped drastically. Support for the national team does not exist, with or without LFC playing here. Do you think the FAS can really do any better? Bringing in top teams will cost millions of pounds, do u think any of the executives there will dare to risk his neck? GET REAL!!!!!

    I think the organisers will be happier to engage another team to play here against LFC, they probably did FAS a favour by allowing the national team to play. With all these bickering going on…I wonder if any other potential organisers will dare to bring another team in. I bet most of them will give singapore a miss. So just be prepared to be content with watching soccer on your TV for the rest of your life.

  14. who buys a ticket worth $88 to support Singapore?
    Liverpool is the main focus when fans go there, so players should expect that. If it was Singapore on show, the price would not be that high.

  15. I believe this will be a scenario.

    If our Lions score, he will be booed. Why?

    Just see the Liverfools’ reaction when Mustafic gave a little nudge to Mascherano.

    Can you please leave Singapore and live in Liverpool since they are so important to you? Thanks!

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