Needing nothing less than a win tonight, Singapore head coach Aide Iskandar has urged all of the Republic’s fans to get behind the team, including those who he claimed have been abusive.
The Young Lions need to beat Indonesia in their final Group A match at the Jalan Besar Stadium tonight to reach the semi-finals of the SEA Games under-23 football competition, but the former national captain revealed that his players had been on the receiving end of verbal abuse from a section of the supporters.
Although he declined to identify them, TODAY understands they are part of the Singapore Die-Hard Fans (SDHF) group who travel regularly to Malaysia to support the national side and LionsXII’s games.
Indonesia and Singapore are level on six points after three matches, but the former’s superior goal difference means they need only a draw tonight to join group leaders Myanmar in the semi-finals. But with a large turnout of Indonesian fans expected for the match, Aide appealed to Singapore fans to wholeheartedly get behind the team. “Some (among) our fans in the past three matches have been hurling abusive remarks at the whole team and that got personal,” said Aide, who declined to elaborate.
“To put it generally, I think there are some among our fans who need to give more support. Everybody wants this team to go to the semi-finals. But for us to do that, we must stand united as Singaporeans. I think that’s the key.”
Akbar Hashim, who started the SDHF in the 1980s, admitted some in his group were abusive towards the Singapore team, but claimed it started after their 1-0 win over the Philippines on June 1.
“We were seated at the grandstand and had supported the team throughout,” said the veteran tour operator. “But after the match, the Singapore players ignored us and headed straight for the fans at the stands near King George’s Avenue to thank them. That made some in our group furious.
“We are also paying fans and supported the team, but were given the cold shoulder in the end.”
The group that received the Young Lions’ attention calls themselves Exclusive Singas and number about 200. They are prominent at every match involving Singapore sides with their drum-beating and non-stop singing.
“Some of our SEA Games players said they wanted to thank us because we kept their spirits up with singing and our drums,” said the group’s leader Syed Faris. “They just wanted to show their appreciation and I think some people were upset.”
Akbar said he raised the issue with “officials” and in the following matches against Myanmar and Cambodia, the players also acknowledged those sitting in the grandstand. But the abuses, he conceded, did not stop.
“I had asked those responsible to stop doing such things,” said Akbar. “But football is an emotional game and fans get frustrated, especially when their team makes silly mistakes, and some lost their heads. But we are Singaporeans and all we want is for this team to get to the semi-finals.”
Aide expects Singapore to have their work cut out against the Indonesians tonight, where midfielders Evan Dimas and Muchlis Hadi Ning Syaifulloh have been identified as the danger men. But he said: “I hope the fans will get behind the team to motivate them, because abusing them won’t help them to play better and, in fact, will unnerve them.”
The match between Singapore and Indonesia will be shown “live” on MediaCorp Toggle at 8.30pm tonight.