Talisman Amri looking forward to Saturday's final
A hero last Saturday, LionsXII star Amri's buzzing ahead of the Malaysian FA Cup final
He stood behind the goal at the Geylang pitch yesterday, both goading and cajoling his teammates, who were still out on the pitch shooting at goal, laughing along with them when shots were scuffed.
This was long after time was called on the LionsXII training session yesterday, and shirtless and still smiling his usual broad smile, there was something a little different about Khairul Amri.
There was a spring in the step of the Singapore international striker, and why not.
There is huge match around the corner, and Singapore's big hope for the big occasion already couldn't hide his excitement.
The LionsXII face Kelantan in the Malaysian FA Cup final at the Bukit Jalil Stadium on Saturday, and in a chat with The New Paper yesterday, Amri said: "Of course I'm excited. Yes, the LionsXII have won the league before (in 2013) but this is a cup final, and a Singapore team hasn't been in a (Malaysian domestic) final for 21 years.
"When I was growing up, all people would talk about was that Malaysia Cup final, how special it was, how it's a part of our history - I want that feeling."
That final in 1994 saw a Fandi Ahmad-led team write themselves into local football folklore, beating Pahang 4-0 to seal a historic Malaysia Cup and league double, the last time a Singapore team competed in domestic competitions across the Causeway before our return three years ago .
The LionsXII were formed in 2012 and had yet to qualify for a final, until Amri's two spectacular goals last Saturday in the second leg semi-final away to Terengganu ensured his team advanced (4-4 on aggregate) on the away goals rule.
Amri has a knack for scoring in finals.
He scored a goal in each of the 2004, 2007 and 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup finals to inspire the national team to victory, and he's looking to dig deep, and find that same player for the big occasion on Saturday.
"The Suzuki Cup is about national pride and I loved every minute of it, but this is just different, somehow," said the 30-year-old, who has not represented any of his four clubs in a cup final.
"This bunch of players can do the job, it's just a matter of following instructions and putting in effort, and I think we can get the job done, even if (Kelantan) score first in the final," he insisted.
"Seeing the mood in the team, and the confidence that we've had over the last few games, we are not afraid of anyone."
Amri believes that the LionsXII spirit was forged in the fiery second leg fixture in Kuala Terengganu last Saturday, and it has made the team stronger.
"Terengganu equalised very quickly after I scored the opening goal, and we started to worry, and they equalised again (in the 60th minute) after I scored the second goal. I remember looking at the clock every time, and thinking: why is time passing so slowly," he recalled.
"At the back of my head was that loss to ATM in the (2012) Malaysia Cup semi-final, but I believed we could do it."
Under V Sundramoorthy then, the LionsXII were on their way into the Malaysia Cup final, but conceded a goal after seven minutes of time added on at the end of the game.
They went on to lose on penalties.
This time it is already different, because the LionsXII are in the final.
Amri echoed the words of head coach Fandi, calling for calm.
"We just need to play without putting pressure on ourselves and enjoy our football. We are the underdogs anyway, and we've got nothing to lose," said Amri.
"You know what will make the difference... If half of Bukit Jalil is filled by Singaporean fans - I heard in 1994 more than half of the people (at the Shah Alam final) were our people.
"I hope our fans come, I would really love to score a goal in the final and win in front of Singaporeans."
Cup final tickets sold online
Tickets for the Malaysian FA Cup final between Kelantan and the LionsXII can be purchased online at www.tickethotline.com.my from 10am today.
Tickets are priced from RM40 ($11.20) and upwards, while concession price for children starts from RM5 ($1.40).
Some 30,000 tickets have been allocated for each team's fans, and the remainder 20,000 tickets are available online.
The final will be played at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday. Kick-off is at 8.45pm.