Sunday, January 28, 2007

Old Lady Kallang

Oh how Kallang roared last night. In what could have been possibly the last match played in the National Stadium, fans turned up in droves to support the Lions. In front of 55,000 fans, Singapore could not fail to falter. Yet, 58mins into the game, Kallang was stunned into silence when Eddy Helmi drove a stinging drive which squirmed off Lionel Lewis on the wet pitch, to give Malaysia the 1-0 lead.

The small section of Malaysians bursted out in celebration as their football team took the unlikely lead. Disappointed Singaporean fans wrung their hands in despair as the possibility of another defeat stared back from the pitch. The Singapore team were about to repeat the 2002 debacle yet again.

Furious fans infront of me started hurling vulgarities and cursed the jubilant Malaysian crowd. However, for the first time, I saw fighting spirit in the Lions. They got back into their groove, took the shock in their stride and drove on in search for the equaliser. Like a woodpecker, the Lions chipped endlessly at the Malaysian defence which for a period of time looked as sturdy as the Great Wall of China.

When Singapore decided to abandon their crisp passing style and settle for the direct route, the reward eventually came. A hopeful cross by Daniel Bennet ended in a mad scramble to toe poke the ball home and the hero of the moment was Mohamed Ridhuan. The brave winger who played with 11 stitches on his forehead looked like a bandaged soldier from afar. Luckily for Singapore, his bravery was elucidated into a goal.

With that strike, Singapore's dismal performance was suddenly forgiven as Kallang erupted as one to give a resounding roar of approval. In no time, the feet thumping was back. It was time for the Kallang Wave again. As the cacophony rose in decibels, the red wave mades its round. Those lucky buggers with the clappers graced the wave with a mad clatter. Singapore was back in business.

Alas, the national team decided that it was better to prolong this rare Kallang roar and took the game with Malaysia to penalty kicks. When the first Malaysian player stood up to take the spot kick, a chorus of boos rang out in the stadium. Everyone in the South gallery tried their best to put him off. Camera flashes went off, whistles, cat calls, rings of 'Balek Kampong' and feet thumping were just the few techniques used to put off that poor Malaysian player. Yet, it wasn't till the last Malaysian spot kick taker that felt the reverberations of a Kallang madhouse.

The unfortunate Mohd Khyril Muhymeen, the freshest man on the pitch, decided either that this 3 hour game was too long or he was simply overwhelmed by pressure. His eventual kick was so poor that Lionel Lewis needed little effort to make the winning save. The National Stadium erupted again. This time I was not sure from relief or from joy as the Lions eventually did not let the 55,000 fans down.

Cheers of 'ole,ole,ole' rang out through the corridors of the National Stadium as contented Singaporeans thronged out into the rain, which mysteriously disappeared throughout the course of the match only to reappear when Lionel Lewis made that save. Singapore are in the Finals.

Come down on Wednesday and bring the house down for the last time. You will love every minute of this. Relish the Kallang Roar before it's gone forever.

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