Football fraternity pay tribute as Khairul Amri retires from Lions
Lions striker calls time on international career; farewell match in the works
The curtain has fallen on the international career of Khairul Amri, one of Singapore's most lethal strikers in recent times.
The 34-year-old, who is the only player to score in three Asean Football Federation (AFF) Championship finals, racked up 32 goals and amassed 132 caps in a glittery Lions career spanning 15 years.
Announcing his international retirement on social media yesterday, Amri said he has fulfilled his dream and it is time for the young ones to take centre stage.
"As a young boy, I always dream to play for the national football team," he wrote.
"Watching the likes of the veterans playing, I want to feel how is it like to score in front of the Kallang crowd."
Amri, who is still playing club football with Malaysian side Felda United, also expressed gratitude to Football Association of Singapore (FAS) officials, fans and all those he had crossed paths with.
He added: "After 15 years and 132 caps... now is the time for me to pass the scoring boots to our young players as I seek to spend more time with my family and focus on my club football."
To be sure, it will not be easy filling the boots of the fleet-footed forward who has blossomed into one of the region's most-feared strikers.
Amri has come a long way since making his international debut as a 19-year-old substitute under Radojko Avramovic in a 7-0 away loss to Oman in 2004.
His goals in three AFF Championship finals - against Indonesia (2004) and Thailand (2007, 2012) - helped the Lions reign supreme in South-east Asia.
Amri also displayed his big-match temperament by scoring a free-kick in an Asian Cup qualifier against Iraq at the National Stadium in 2006.
The Lions defeated the eventual Asian champions 2-0, a result that sent shockwaves across the continent.
Not surprisingly, Amri ranked that set-piece strike alongside his first international goal in a 2-0 win over India in 2004 as his most memorable ones.
Three months ago, he made his last appearance in a Lions shirt in a 2-1 friendly loss to Myanmar.
Lions' team manager Eric Ong told The New Paper: "While I'm sad that Amri is no longer part of the national team, I'd also like to express thanks for his contributions."
Ong, who has known Amri for over 15 years, added that the former Tampines Rovers player deserves more recognition.
He said: "It's a privilege to have worked with Amri and it has always been a pleasure.
"I feel that Amri deserves more credit as one of Singapore's best-ever strikers.
"He has delivered on the big stage, having scored in three AFF Championship finals and also against Iraq.
"But it's not just about his goals, it's also about his intelligence. For instance, in our friendly against Malaysia in March, he delivered a great pass for Faris Ramli to score the winner."
Ong was referring to Amri's through-ball for Faris, which came with the score at 0-0 and only eight minutes left.
"We remember him for his goals," added Ong. "But he's also a team player with great all-round play."
Ong added they will definitely consider a farewell match for Amri, but it is a matter of timing as the national team have a tight schedule due to the World Cup qualifiers.
Lions captain Hariss Harun believes Amri could still contribute to the Lions, but it's his decision and we should respect it.
Said Hariss: "We will miss him. He is the type of striker who can win games on his own, but now it's up to the next generation to step up and pick up from where he left off."
Even regional rivals paid tribute. Former Thai international Therdsak Chaiman, who played against Amri for both club and country, told TNP it's a pity that Amri has retired from the international scene.
Therdsak, currently coach of Thai third-tier side Phuket City, said: "He is a talented player with good techniques."
The former Warriors midfielder added cheekily: "He can play for the national team again if I'm the coach. He will be one of the strikers I want to work with.
"Finally, good luck in the path he chooses and wishing him success in the future."