Hope yet for Kallang Roar if...
Mythical Kallang Roar remains elusive as toothless Lions lie down against the Samurai Blue
SINGAPORE 0 JAPAN 3
As the National Stadium came alive in a chorus of Majulah Singapura, there was a lump in my throat and tears welled in my eyes.
Hearing the national anthem sung by hordes of Singaporeans in unison gets me at every sporting event.
That's until you hear the Kallang Roar, a veteran journalist told me.
My editors had sent me, a football newbie, to the Singapore-Japan World Cup Qualifier to get a taste of the Roar - that mythical creature of the National Stadium that young Singaporeans grow up hearing about but never quite got to experience first-hand.
When the first whistle was blown, there was electricity in the air coupled with the feeling that anything was possible.
I was ready to cheer my heart out for Singapore.
A gentleman I spoke to, Mr Chua Kee Soon, said the camaraderie that came from sharing a bench in the old National Stadium is now gone but he was hopeful of a Kallang Roar revival.
The 70-year-old has followed local football since the days of Quah Kim Song, Dollah Kassim and later on, Fandi Ahmad.
Singapore had played well in the reverse fixture in Japan, he said, where a man-of-the-match performance by goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud had kept the Samurai Blue at bay in a goalless draw.
There was hope that with home advantage, the result could be repeated, or even bettered.
The game started off swimmingly and spirits were high.
Every time the ball went into the Japanese half, the crowd rumbled, like a lion warming up its vocal cords.
A Lions fan-group coalition called Singamania had promised to bring back the Kallang Roar and they were leading the way with their spirited cheering.
Then Japan scored. And scored again.
The mood suddenly turned grim. A man behind me even swore at the music that followed a goal.
But the Singapore fans pressed on, except that there was now an air of desperation in their cheers, such as when Izwan again defied Japan with his saves or when a Japanese goal was ruled out for offside.
And then it was over. The Lions had succumbed meekly without truly baring their teeth.
After the match, little Md Dzulhadri Jamil, nine, who had pasted The New Paper's "ROAR" centrespread on a cardboard to support the Lions, seemed slightly disappointed.
Mr Norman Abdul Samat, 38, founder of one of the Singamania groups, told me the magic touch was not quite there last night.
"The spirit (of the Kallang Roar) is still there but waiting for a good time to be unleashed. Had there been a goal, the Roar, that magic, it would be back," he said.
In truth, Asian powerhouse Japan were always a mismatch for Singapore.
The Lions had outdone themselves in Saitama. Several supporters I spoke to had shown little conviction that the Lions could repeat it.
But there are promising signs that the Kallang Roar can return.
But first the Lions must give the fans something tangible to cheer about. Against less formidable opponents, the Lions could well achieve that.
While the Kallang Roar still remains a mythical creature for now, I'm proud to say after my first Kallang Wave (not the mall), I want more.
So Lions, can we please have something to roar about against Syria on Tuesday?
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