Sports

LionsXII fan’s perspective: Watching LionsXII win the FA Cup in Bukit Jalil!

Being at Bukit Jalil Stadium to see the our LionsXII lift our first ever Malaysia FA Cup last night was insanely satisfying and one of the best nights of my life!

You cannot imagine the pride the visiting LionsXII fans felt. Despite being only 5,000 strong, we drowned out the 80,000 home team Kelantan FA fans with our celebration and cheers. It was a classic story of David winning Goliath. It was the classic story of the underdogs winning the day.

LionsXII win the cup (Photo: ST)

 The road to the finals

Roads leading up to Bukit Jalil Stadium were massively jammed, and we saw many diehard Kelantan FA fans, or The Red Warriors, driving cars decked out with red flags. Hoards of them drove six hours south for the match. Man that’s hardcore!

What would be a 20 minute trip from our hotel became more than an hour in the gridlocked traffic. Imagine over 87,000 fans congregating in one space – most driving from the north and south for this landmark match.

Over 40 buses of LionsXII fans arrived at Bukit Jalil Stadium as early as four hours before the 8:45PM kickoff. We were grouped outside the sports building, preparing for the police escort.

Farhan and I have been LionsXII supporters since the team was founded in 2011 to participate in the Malaysian Super League. We’ve been catching every home game at Jalan Besar Stadium, so when the boys beat Terengganu to the FA Cup finals, there was no question we’d make the trip up to KL for this milestone match.

We got spotted by journalists and was on the Berita Harian!

LionsXII fans had to wait to be led into the stadium by police escorts.

Police escorts in the neon green vests flanking the visiting fans for safety concerns.

LionsXII fans entering via the blue gates designated for away fans.

It was my first time at Bukit Jalil Stadium, which at 87,000 capacity is the 10th largest stadium in the world. The atmosphere as you enter a predominantly Malaysian crowd home ground is crazy intimidating.

On the other end was the diehard Kelantan FA supporters in black with their flags. The stadium was decked in banners proclaiming Kelantan pride: “Kita ore Klate bako ore berani”. It sends a message to visiting fans: “You are not welcome here”.

This was Bukit Jalil lit up during the pre-game segment, with players on the pitch soaking up the atmosphere.

Kelantan diehard supporters stands, unrolling banners that declared their “We are here to win!” battlecry.

Kickoff

Kickoff was at 8:45PM. The Kelantan anthem and the Malaysian national anthem were played, which reverberated through the crowd across the entire stadium. To the confusion of many LionsXII fans, Majulah Singapura was not played, which felt a little strange. We understand it was probably because the LionsXII is not to be confused with the national team. It is a Malaysia cup, so we respect the home rules.

So when Faris Ramli scored the first goal at the 6th minute, our LionsXII fans went bonkers with the opportunity to make our voices heard! We were screaming chants of ‘Ole ole ole’ and ‘Yuh ayuh ayuh Singapura’.

“Satu nada, satu suara, satu darah. Satu bangsa dan negara. Satu Singapura! Yuh ayuh ayuh, ayuh ayuh Singapura!”

(Translation: “One tone, one voice, one blood. One nation and country. One Singapore! Come, come on Singapore!”)

The rest of the first half was filled with scary moments as the skillful Kelantan FA side bombarded Izwan Mahbud’s goal. Our boys were doing well, led by stalwarts Zulfahmi Ariffin and Madhu Mohana in central defence. But with the close scares, you could tell our fans had similarly close heart attacks on how much longer our defence could hold up.

Half time

We were still one up when we kicked off the second half. Will the boys sit back and defend? We hope not and it’s not Fandi’s style of play.

Then Kelantan FA scored in the 62nd minute and the 80,000 home crowd erupted into a frenzy. Collective sigh in the visiting LionsXII crowd. ALAMAK. 1-1. Then they put on their super-sub Austin Amutu – that guy is a bulldozer siah.

Then in the 80th minute, our own super-sub Sahil Suhaimi pounced on a loose ball from the halfway mark, took on two defenders and scored! GOOOOOOAL!

We roared to life once more, jumping up and down, singing our hoarse lungs out, hugging strangers, throwing newspaper confetti in the air – while the home crowd went absolutely silent. Though our fans were outnumbered 16-1, our cheers of “Yuh ayuh Singapura” surely were heard across Bukit Jalil that night. We knew we were close!

Injury time

Then in injury time, Sahil was brought down in the box – PENALTY! Super Sahil to the spot and scored! Our fans started singing “Tiga – Satu! Tiga – Satu!” We knew the Cup would be ours!

Some Kelantan fans started leaving the stadium even before the match ended. There was some safety controversy as items were hurled from the upper tiers to the Singapore crowd below. Thankfully no one was hurt.

Full time

Final whistle goes and at this point of time everyone goes mad! We did it! We won our first ever Malaysia FA Cup against all odds!

Our team of mostly under-23s with five players above that age (as per the team regulations), had won against a team with foreign players and dubbed one of the best in Malaysia! In Fandi we trust!

The usual celebrations followed after, and it lasted through the night as the stadium emptied out leaving mostly the Singapore camp.

Managed to get a selfie with my favorite winger – Faris Ramli, who was such a sport. What a champ!

I hope this win only helps to increase the visibility and support for the local soccer scene (including the S-League). What a win! What a team!

Let’s continue to bring back the Singapore and Kallang roar in the SEA Games!

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