Lessons from legends
LionsXII get cup final tips from Malaysia Cup heroes
Four days before their date with destiny, the LionsXII had some surprise visitors just before their training session at the ITE College Central yesterday evening.
Malaysia Cup heroes - including Malek Awab, Lim Tong Hai, Razali Saad, Steven Tan and Rafi Ali - had just finished a friendly match and popped down to give the team a pep talk and some friendly advice ahead of Saturday's Malaysian FA Cup final against Kelantan at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
Along with LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad, many of the former players featured in the Malaysia Cup finals of 1993 and 1994.
They lost 2-0 to Kedah in 1993, but made up for it when they beat Pahang 4-0 a year later.
The LionsXII have created their own history 21 years on, becoming the first foreign team to qualify for the FA Cup final after beating Terengganu on away goals after their semi-final clash ended 4-4 on aggregate.
Like many of his peers, "Supersub" Tan wants the LionsXII to "enjoy the atmosphere and occasion".
"It's a neutral ground, whoever adapts fastest will win," said the 44-year-old.
"I think the first goal will be crucial."
"Mighty Mouse" Malek is aware of the dangers of being overawed.
"Back in 1994, even while I was clearing customs, the Malaysian officer and the fans would tell me we had no chance," the 54-year-old recalled.
"Every Malaysian wanted us to lose and tried his best to throw us off.
"You are playing against 14 players - the 11 opponents, the fans, the officials and the unfamiliar pitch.
"Concentration will be key."
Former national captain Razali urged the LionsXII to make full use of the support from the thousands of Singapore fans who will make their way north to back the team.
The 50-year-old told The New Paper: "When we walked out to the Merdeka Stadium pitch hours before the 1993 Malaysia Cup final, we were surprised to see the Singapore fans already in the stands.
"And when they started singing the national songs, it was such an emotional scene that moved me to tears.
"Don't get stressed out.
"Don't worry about the opponents.
"Know your abilities, do what your coaches tell you.
"People are still talking about Singapore's footballers from the '70s, '80s and '90s, but few are talking about the current teams.
"Now is your time to create history and make a name for yourselves."
LionsXII defender Madhu Mohana told TNP: "We grew up hearing a lot of stories about their exploits and we are now in the position to do something for Singapore football and leave a legacy for future generations.
"We must be inspired by this opportunity and get the job done."
Tickets for FA final on sale today
Tickets for the LionsXII's Malaysian FA Cup final against Kelantan at Kuala Lumpur's Bukit Jalil Stadium on Saturday will go on sale from today.
A total of 30,000 tickets have been allocated for Singaporean fans.
They are priced at $15.
Tickets will be sold only to Singaporeans from noon to 8pm today to Friday at the Jalan Besar Stadium Box Office at the arena's North Gate.
Fans must show their identity cards upon purchase. The tickets will be blue, as Bukit Jalil Stadium officials have designated the Blue Zone as the Singapore Fan Zone.
Singaporeans who live in Malaysia can purchase tickets through the Football Association of Malaysia, but they must be mindful of buying only blue-coloured tickets if they wish to sit in the Singapore Fan Zone. Fans who are interested in travel packages can contact Akbar Hashim (9664 4942) or Walter Koh (8122 2459).
- HAIQAL SARI