LET'S GO FOR GOLD
The scene has been set - a world-class sports facility and a talented team backed by resources and will.
As Singapore celebrates its 50th birthday by hosting the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games at the Sports Hub from June 5 to 16 next year, football has set its sight on igniting a nation.
"SEA Games 2015 will be special to us, as we will be hosting the tournament at the newly built Singapore Sports Hub... and we want to win the gold medal for Singapore," said Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin (above) in an interview with The New Paper.
The footballers have won three silvers and seven bronze medals in the 27 editions of the Games.
Even with football legends Fandi Ahmad and V Sundramoorthy leading the attack, the Lions could finish only second to hosts Malaysia in 1989, going down 3-1 in the final Bukit Jalil.
"It will be a very difficult challenge as we have never won the gold medal, and it will be a fantastic achievement if we can do so in front of our own fans," Zainudin added.
The football competition was converted into an Under-23 contest in 2001.
Work for the gold-medal dream has already begun, with the bulk of the players who will make up the SEA Games squad having just returned from a month-long training stint in Turkey with the Courts Young Lions.
The team recorded two wins, two draws and a loss in an encouraging showing that included a 3-1 win over the Austrian Under-18s, and a 1-1 draw with the Azerbaijan Under-21 side.
With LionsXII players Faris Ramli, Shakir Hamzah and Shahfiq Ghani eligible for selection, along with players from the 2010 Youth Olympic Games squad who rocked the nation en route to winning a bronze medal, Zainudin expects the 2015 side to have a blend of youthful vigour and experience.
"This Turkey trip is just the start of our plans to develop players who will be eligible for the Games," he said.
"I believe when the SEA Games arrives, we will be able to field a highly competitive squad filled with experienced players," he said.
Hariss Harun, who has three SEA Games bronze from four campaigns, says the gold-medal dream is achievable.
"There is definitely skill, ability and potential in this team.
"And there is nothing more motivational than playing at a brand-new stadium, in front of your own fans," said Hariss.
"But winning needs more than just skill, there needs to be hunger, desire and motivation."
Zainudin called for fans, corporations and the media to rally behind the quest.
He said: "We face many challenges on our path to achieving our goal, as we continue to seek support from all stakeholders both on and off the field."
2015 SEA GAMES