Lions urge fans to bring back the Kallang Roar
Semangat, or spirit in Malay, was the invisible force behind the Kallang Roar at the old National Stadium.
Opposing teams and fans used to be intimidated when a sea of red launched into an unstoppable wave, or shook the stadium at its foundations with its foot-stomping.
The Lions are hoping to rekindle that spirit at the new 55,000-seater National Stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub, when they start their AFF Suzuki Cup defence against Thailand next Sunday.
Malaysia coach Dollah Salleh told The New Paper in an interview (see facing page) that his team have "no problems" facing a capacity home crowd when they play Singapore on Nov 29 and Lions captain Shahril Ishak wants the fans to make him eat his words.
"It is every footballer's dream to play in front of a fantastic crowd. I did that at the old National Stadium in 2004 and 2007 (in the Asean Football Federation Championship), and the atmosphere was fantastic," said Shahril.
"Now that we have a new stadium, we want fans to recreate that atmosphere, that semangat we used to have in the past."
"Of course, the Causeway Derby is always something special to us, but we hope that fans can also fill the stadiums too when we play Thailand and Myanmar," added the 30-year-old at yesterday's Suzuki Cup trophy tour at the Kallang Wave Mall.
Goalkeeper Hassan Sunny also urged the fans to turn Kallang into a sea of red and to create a white-hot atmosphere for the visiting teams.
"It's normal for Dollah to say that (his players will not be fazed by our fans)," said the 30-year-old.
"After all, most of his players play in the Malaysian Super League, where they often face big crowds, so they would be used to it at club level.
"We don't normally have such a big crowd (in the S.League), but having the whole stadium supporting us would give us a big boost."
"I was part of the Kallang Roar when I was younger, it was an amazing feeling to be part of such a big-match atmosphere," added the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League Player of the Year.
"We have yet to see such a great atmosphere at the new stadium, and we hope that it will be revived."
National coach Bernd Stange was more diplomatic about Dollah's comments.
The German said: "I won't make any comments about Malaysia, how they think or how they feel.
"I speak only for our team and, for us, our crowd is very important."
"A big crowd is the 12th or 13th man everywhere in the world," added the 66-year-old, who has guided teams on hallowed turfs such as the Maracana, Wembley and the Stade de France.
"If you look at the statistics in world football, there is a reason why a team normally have more home wins than away victories. It is the home crowd."
The trio, along with Amirul Adli, Shakir Hamzah and Faris Ramli, took part in a question-and-answer session yesterday at the Kallang Wave Mall, and signed autographs for about 150 fans at the two-hour event.
Stange said: "Our fans are the true VIPs in football. We need our fans to cheer for the national team, to wear the red shirts at the stadium and to support us, especially if things don't go our way in the matches.
"Big crowds are nothing new to me in my long career, but some of the youngsters in our team have never played in front of such a crowd before.
"It can be a big, big boost for them."