Result over friendship for Sundram
They know each other well, but Sundram and Kraljevic are desperate men tonight
During their playing days, they were teammates at both Kelantan and the now-defunct Jurong FC.
They have remained good friends, even as they went into the next stage of their football careers.
Tonight, at the Toa Payoh Stadium, Tampines Rovers coach V Sundramoorthy and his Balestier Khalsa counterpart Marko Kraljevic will put friendship aside, at least for 90 minutes, as they look to keep alive their respective teams' Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League title hopes.
Second-placed Stags, trailing leaders Brunei DPMM by five points and ahead of Balestier on goal difference, are in a favourable position with two games in hand over the other two contenders.
With his side's destiny now back in their own hands, Sundram knows they must stop counting on favours from others, even from an old friend.
"It's in our hands," he told The New Paper at training yesterday.
"After DPMM's result (lost 2-1 to Geylang International on Tuesday), all the boys are motivated and ready to go.
"We need to go out there and have the dream and show real desire to win the league on our own.
"Marko and I are both professionals… We have to do our jobs and try to get the best for our respective clubs.
HAVE A DRINK
"After the game, we'll have a drink together and that's all part of football.
"For now, it's crunch time and we have to go out there and do something to really keep us in the hunt."
Tampines and Balestier had both dropped points in draws against Warriors FC and Hougang United, respectively earlier in the week, but the title race was thrown wide open on Tuesday after DPMM's shocking loss to Geylang.
Kraljevic agreed with his friend that there would be no room for sentiment, insisting Balestier would have no qualms derailing the Stags' title hopes.
The German-born Croat told TNP: "Friendship can come after the 90 minutes.
"During the game, I don't recognise anybody, not even my family.
"I just go to the field and try to win.
"Sometimes, I have a feeling luck is following us… When we drop points, everyone else drops points too and it gives us some hope that we can still be champions.
"Tomorrow is really do or die, there is nothing left to calculate and it's really the last chance for both teams but, if we win, everything is still open."
Both coaches did, however, reserve special praise for each other.
"At the end of the day, friendship is friendship," added Kraljevic.
"One big clash, and whatever happens during it, will not change that.
"But it's good that both us are doing well and, hopefully, one of us will be lifting the trophy at the end of the season."
Sundram, meanwhile, hailed the impact his former colleague has had in transforming the Tigers into title contenders.
The 50-year-old said: "I think anyone can be proud of his achievements. What he has done with Balestier is unbelievable and you really have to give him credit."
Going by the permutations, at least one challenger could have had their title hopes seriously damaged, or even ended, after tonight's clash.
While Sundram called on his charges to set their sights on the big prize as motivation, Kraljevic will be opting for a different approach.
"Whatever we do, we must not worry too much about the win," he explained. "The win is the outcome but there's not much you can do about the outcome.
"What we must do is think about the process that will lead to the outcome of winning and do what we're supposed to do."