Faris Ramli hopes to make the most of unexpected SEA Games chance
Lions forward hopes to make the most of unexpected opportunity to play in SEA Games again
Four years have passed, but Faris Ramli is still rankled by his last SEA Games in 2015.
Even now, he can pin-point the precise moment that "haunted" the Young Lions at a tournament where they were supposed to deliver Singapore's first football gold in the biennial meet's 60-year history.
That campaign on home soil ended in a group-stage exit.
Faris scored in their second group match against Myanmar, but that is not the memory that has been seared in his psyche.
With the score at 1-1 and only 30 minutes left, an innocuous free-kick by Myanmar's Ye Ko Oo took an awkward bounce past Young Lions goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari.
It condemned the Young Lions to a 2-1 defeat and left them needing to win their two remaining games to advance.
Faris scored again in their 3-1 win over Cambodia, but they were knocked out of the competition after losing 1-0 to Indonesia in their final group fixture.
It is no wonder that he is itching to make things right this time around.
Speaking ahead of tonight's opening clash against Laos at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, Faris told The New Paper: "(2015) was my last SEA Games and it was the worst for me because it was in Singapore - 2015 was just unlucky for us.
"We screwed up some games and didn't get the points. I think one of those games was so unfortunate.
"It was a free-kick and there was a bounce in front of Syazwan and he didn't manage to save it.
"That bounce was horrible, a horrible bounce off (the) Jalan Besar Stadium (pitch). I still remember that goal.
"That really haunted us for that game and throughout the tournament.
"I just don't want a repeat this year... There is some unfinished business in the SEA Games."
The introduction of the two overaged player provision at the Under-22 tournament this year has offered 27-year-old attacker Faris the unexpected chance to settle unfinished business.
This will be his fourth Games, with group-stage exits in 2011 and 2015 sandwiching a bronze medal in 2013 - the last time the Young Lions finished on the SEA Games podium.
Being a key player for club or country is nothing new for the Singapore Premier League's Player of the Year, who has since joined Malaysian top-tier team Terengganu, but he admits taking on a leadership role as the oldest member of the squad is a new experience.
Young Lions coach Fandi Ahmad is counting on Faris, saying: "He adds some good experience to the team because he has played at three SEA Games and he is a senior player with the national team...
"He has more international knowledge than the rest of the players, so he will be a leader...
"When he talks to the boys, he has been supportive and he's very motivated for this tournament."
When TNP asked Faris what advice he has offered his younger teammates, he said he has been urging them not to focus too much on the opposition.
He explained: "You can focus on other teams, but not too much.
"I think that is the best advice I can give. Because I don't want a repeat of past SEA Games, where you see a team coming in for lunch or dinner and you keep talking about them.
"Let them talk about us. Not us talking about them. That is the mentality I would like to instil.
"I know what these boys are capable of... I think they have bonded really well.
"I think there are more bonding sessions for this team as compared to 2011, 2013 or 2015.
"Coach Fandi has done well to bring the boys together... I think he's learnt from previous SEA Games (teams) in 2015 and 2017, that were maybe lacking, chemistry-wise."
- Malaysia 1 Myanmar 1
- Philippines 1 Cambodia 1
- Vietnam 6 Brunei 0
TODAY'S OTHER GROUP B FIXTURE
Thailand v Indonesia