Sunday, June 08, 2014


Singapore's Class Of '94

50,000 Singapore fans travelled to Shah Alam Stadium for the Malaysia Cup Final in 1994. A further 1 million watched it on TV back home. Singapore won the game 4-0 against Pahang, Abbas Saad netted a hat ytick while Fandi Ahmad hit the third.

The Lions returned to Singapore and there crowds waiting for them at the airport. A further 20,000 filled the old national stadium to celebrate their success.

Talk to anyone from those days and they will compare unfavourably the current football set up with the Class of '94. The idea that 50,000 Singaporeans would even cross the road to see their team play these days seems laughable. Manchester United, yes. Liverpool, yes. But Singapore? Forget it.

What went wrong? Where have those fans gone? What level of mismanagement has caused Singaporeans to turn their back on their own game and adopt teams from thousands of miles away?

The names of '94 are etched deep in the Singapore psyche... David Lee (goalkeeper), Terry Patmanathan (sweeper), Borhan Abu Samah (left back), Malek Awab (right back/winger), Lim Tong Hai (center back), V. Selvaraj (midfielder), Fandi Ahmad (striker), Sundramoorthy (right winger), Lee Man Hon (left winger), “Supersub” Steven Tan (right winger), Nazri Nasir (midfielder), together with the foreign imports in Abbas Saad (striker), Alistair Edwards (striker) and Jang Jung (sweeper).

Their names and their deeds live but their successors are frankly ignored or mocked. Players like Noh Alam Shah. Baihakki Khaizan, Ahmad Latief, Indra Sahdan Daud, M Ridwan are lucky to receive a fraction of the respect directed towards those who overcame Pahang. Lionel Lewis, an international keeper considered good enough for trials with Manchester City and Grasshopper Zurich, was forced to leave the game because there was no money.

Tha fans have dried up. Those who are left just want free tickets and clubs have resorted to giving away tubes of potato crisps to try and get people through the gate!

Singaporeans will get behind their national team, especially if they are in with a chance of winning something, but they have yet to feel the same emotional attachment to their club sides these days.

Singapore football has a long, proud tradition going back decades through its efforts in the Malaysia Cup. The passion for the game is there; just see the English Premier league shirts on the MRT or the buses. But you must go some to see people wearing local teams' shirts.

This is the 20th anniversary of what many people see as the pinnacle of football in Singapore. Yet what is being done to commemorate it? Where are the books, videos, t shirts or othe rmemorabilia to recall that magical day? Beyond a few whiny letters to the local papers, where is the official recognition of '94?

You cannot have a present or a future until you recognise the past and it is quite shocking that no one seems willing to step forward and recognise that team, give it the respect it deserves and, perhaps, use it as the moment Singapore decided it needed its own league.

By giving '94 a status of its own, perhaps people can then start to afford the current generation the respect it deserves. Things ain't too bad these days...2012 ASEAN Cup Champions, 2013 LionsXII won the Malaysian Super League.

On the 20th anniversary it is right to remember the past. But it is also right to look forward to the future.

Malaysia Cup 1994 video
Personal memories

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