If you were busy tucking into a feast on Christmas, you might have missed one heck of a football match between Singapore and Indonesia.
The AFF Suzuki Cup second leg semi final match had it all: goals, controversies, red cards, a last minute penalty.
But most importantly, it had plenty of heart and courage.
Playing with just nine men in normal time after the sending off of Safuwan Baharudin and Irfan Fandi, the Lions pushed Indonesia to the limit and almost nicked it right at the death. Unfortunately, the Indonesian goalkeeper saved Faris Ramli’s spot kick.
The valiant Lions ran themselves to the ground, covering every blade of grass, with custodian Hassan Sunny in inspired form, keeping out waves and waves of attack before his eventual dismissal deep in extra time.
Ultimately, the numerical advantage proved to be too much and Indonesia eventually beat Singapore 4-2 after extra time.
Though the Lions lost the match, it won plenty of hearts
Tributes flowed online following the hard fought match.
If a football match can epitomise what it means to play your heart out, then this match is surely it.
And if there’s a perfect response to the battling display, then this video is surely it.
ESPN Asia uploaded a video of fans staying back after the final whistle and singing the National Anthem with gusto despite the defeat.
Where next for Singapore football?
There has been mockery in some quarters throughout the years: the drop in FIFA rankings, a less than competitive local league, calling for funding to be transferred to other more successful sports and so on.
That said, these criticisms have good intention, after all, who else are we going to support?
One thing the critics couldn’t fault on Christmas Day is the heart – not skills, tactics, individual brilliance – and the Lions showed that they have it in spades.
Furthermore, the rare sight of fans singing the National Anthem is an encouraging sign for the future of Singapore football. It proved that Singaporeans are not seized only by success; it proved that hearts and minds can be won over with effort alone; it proved that by giving your all, winning or losing doesn’t really matter.
Culture, Community and Youth Minister Edwin Tong summed it up perfectly in his Facebook post, saying:
In fact, Singapore football, and the society as a whole, must press on and build on the fans’ response.
Because surely, this valiant display is something we all can get behind.
Thank you, Lions.
Cover photo credit: ESPN Asia Video.