Leonard Thomas: Time for fans to do their part
To raise the Kallang Roar, make the Japan clash on Nov 12 free for local tribe
The call went out for them to come in force and urge their favourites on, but the numbers in the end were a shock.
Fan turnout for the Singapore-Afghanistan World Cup qualifier last Thursday was 7,128, and I believe many of them walked through the National Stadium turnstiles brandishing complimentary tickets.
Maybe there will be an improvement tonight for the qualifier with Cambodia as a handsome win is on the cards, but it won't be by much, and the inability of the Lions to even attract 10,000 of their own for a vital international should set alarm bells ringing at the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).
Ideas need to be urgently tossed out and examined, and a brave decision must then be made to implement any number of them and try to convince football-loving Singaporeans to make the trek to the 55,000-capacity National Stadium, or we will once again suffer the embarrassment of a Japan clash here turning into a "home" game for the visitors.
There could be as many as 10,000 Blue Samurai in the stands on Nov 12, keyed up, ready to push their favourites to exact revenge after the stunning 0-0 in Saitama in the World Cup qualifier in June, so I suggest the FAS make the Japan match free for fans of the Lions because this could be the game to raise the Kallang Roar for the first time at the new National Stadium.
I can hear the groans in the corridors of power at the Jalan Besar Stadium, there will be many who will argue local fans need to realise they have to back their team through thick and thin, but the compact between Singapore football and what was once a huge and boisterous local following is seriously fractured at the moment, and in need of urgent major repair.
After the Lions' disastrous defence of their Asean title on home soil last year, and a humiliating performance by the Singapore Under-23s at this year's South-east Asia Games, also in our own backyard, few today believe any of our teams are capable of doing their followers proud on the international stage.
Despite the Malaysian FA Cup win in May, the LionsXII seem to have lost some shine and after years of suffering the S.League is set for a major revamp.
If the hope was for the team out on the pitch last week to play a brand of football that would reignite interest among their followers, then it was snuffed out as the Afghans outplayed Bernd Stange's men for the entire game.
Those at the stadium or watching on TV would have witnessed a number of Singapore internationals who were unfit and ponderous.
Captain Shahril Ishak was woefully off the pace and lasted only 45 minutes.
So impressive in the first half of the year for the LionsXII, midfielder Izzdin Shafiq huffed and puffed, but clearly carrying extra weight, his lack of pace was exposed time and again.
Especially with Zulfahmi Ariffin, his partner, continuing to show he is unable to move with any sort of urgency.
I wonder how many players in the squad realise what it takes to do the national jersey justice on the international stage.
Perhaps some of them will point to the three qualifying results away from home as proof last Thursday was a one-off, but it hardly explains the lack of fitness among a clutchful of players, and the missing urgency.
The haze clearly played a role as some Singaporeans chose to stay at home for the Afghanistan clash.
On a workday, they could also catch the match 'live' on TV, anyway.
The suspension of stars Hariss Harun and Safuwan Baharudin kept even more away and the visiting team were also never going to be must-see opposition.
Alarmingly, the new National Stadium has yet to hear the magic of the Kallang Roar and much of it is an indictment on Singapore football.
I have previously urged the FAS to bus fans in from all corners of the island and hold a mini-concert before kick-off, there could be a meet-and-greet session with former Singapore football heroes and worthy giveaways.
Some sort of arrangement should be worked out with the authorities and the Singapore Sports Hub to make any of the ideas work.
Stange must demand better from his players, the FAS needs to be proactive and show it values the fans.
In 2004, Jalan Besar Stadium was turned into a Japanese hothouse as Zico's men just squeaked by the Lions 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier.
The National Stadium could go the same way on Nov 12, and Hariss, Safuwan and Co., striving to qualify for the Asian Cup Finals for the first time, will have to do their best against Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda and Japan's 12th man in the stands.
Surely, such a fate must be avoided at all cost.