Grieving Mustafic leaves Lions squad
Mustafic withdraws from squad due to father's death, but teammates vow to play for him
National coach V Sundramoorthy was dealt a blow yesterday ahead of the crucial AFF Suzuki Cup Group A clash with Thailand tomorrow.
Versatile Mustafic Fahrudin, who can operate in defence or midfield, had to withdraw from the squad after receiving news in the afternoon that his father had died.
The tough-tackling 35-year-old, who is the second oldest member of Sundram's 23-man Suzuki Cup squad in Manila, left the team's base at the Novotel Hotel in Araneta to return to Serbia - his country of birth - to be with his family.
Wiping tears from his eyes, Farra, as he is popularly known as, told The New Paper yesterday: "I got the news from my brother, who called me. It's so sudden... But this is how life can be."
Farra said that his father died from a heart attack.
The unfortunate news came just a day after Singapore valiantly hung on for an opening draw against Asean's top-ranked team - the Philippines - on Saturday.
The Lions had to play almost two-thirds of the game with a man down, following the dismissal of Hafiz Abu Sujad in the 34th minute.
The Lions vowed to rally behind their grieving teammate.
Midfielder Hariss Harun, who skippered the team against the Philippines, said: "We hope he will stay strong, and we want him to know the team are always with him.
"We will do our best for him."
Goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, whose heroics proved pivotal in holding the Filipinos on Saturday, has called on his teammates to play for Farra.
"We were all shocked and sad when we heard the news," said the 32-year-old. "It was so sudden, and we all feel for him.
"We will dedicate our efforts in the Thailand game for him."