Stange calls for 12th man to roar on the Lions
Lions coach Stange urges fans to fill National Stadium for Afghan clash
SINGAPORE v AFGHANISTAN
(Thursday, 8pm, National Stadium)
The national football team's last match at the National Stadium drew over 45,000 fans, most of whom suffered as they watched the Lions dumped out of the AFF Suzuki Cup by arch-rivals Malaysia last November.
A little over 10 months on, Bernd Stange's men have a vital clash against Afghanistan in their World Cup/Asian Cup Group E qualifier at the same venue on Thursday.
Whether the team will be backed by a similar crowd remains to be seen.
Aside from the fact the match is on a weekday night and will be telecast "live" on the Eleven Sports Network (Singtel TV Channel 109), Singapore will also be missing their two biggest stars, midfield duo Hariss Harun and Safuwan Baharudin.
And the haze is another factor.
Stange made a plea yesterday when he called on Singaporeans to turn out in force at the National Stadium and back the Lions.
"Together with our fans, there should be only one winner and that's us," said the German, just before the team's training at the Geylang Field.
"We need your support and your help because we haven't sold many tickets at this stage.
"Our fans can push us and we definitely need our fans.
"If something goes wrong, they should be the 12th man and we will do everything we can to beat Afghanistan."
The haze seems to be the biggest concern.
The Football Association of Singapore said in a recent statement that the Asian Football Confederation will have the final say on whether the Afghanistan game, and the qualifier against Cambodia next Tuesday, also at the National Stadium, will proceed as scheduled.
Singapore fans are well-known for purchasing tickets late, meaning the uncertainty that hangs over the match will likely affect turnout.
Exact figures of ticket sales so far were not available last night.
Stange said the haze meant "we cannot do what we want" in certain training sessions, but he does not want to make a big deal out of it.
"We had to slow down, we will follow the rules we have here in Singapore... because the health of our players is important," he said.
"We will adapt. Afghanistan have the same problems, and they will also have jetlag.
"So we won't make a big issue out of the haze."
Some fans are more concerned.
Kenneth Seet, a 37-year-old account executive, said: "I still can't decide to go or not because of the haze.
"My friends and I don't want to make a wasted trip and the safer option is to watch it 'live' on TV.
"It's unfortunate, but if the haze is really bad, we have to be wise and stay at home."
Others, like Faizal Kamal, disagree though.
"I will not let the haze get between me and my love for the Lions," said the 27-year-old civil servant.
"Anyway, there's always the N95 mask."
Tickets, priced at $38 for Cat 1 ($50 for both matches) and $28 for Cat 2 ($36 for both matches) are available through:
- hotlines 6333-5000 and 3158-7888
- Singapore Indoor Stadium box office and all SingPost outlets islandwide Concession prices of $15 for a Cat 1 ticket and $10 for a Cat 2 one, are applicable for students aged 16 and below, and senior citizens aged 60 and above.