It was a goal that set Singapore football alight and gave the nation its first ever international title. R.Sasikumar talks to FourFourTwo as we look back at the famous “shoulder” goal from the 1998 Tiger Cup (now known as the AFF Suzuki Cup)
It is hard enough to get some sleep before a cup final but imagine trying to catch a wink before what could be perhaps be a career defining match with hundreds of Vietnam fans causing a ruckus outside the hotel.
That was one of the many obstacles that the 1998 Tiger Cup winning team had faced in the lead up to their triumph. The man who scored the winning goal in the final against Vietnam, R. Sasikumar tells FourFourTwo about the problems he and his teammates faced.
“It was terrible. The people tried to put us up in horrible hotels, gave us horrible food and of course there were the fans that did all they could, making so much noise outside our hotel to try and keep us up all night," he says.
But all the shenanigans didn’t matter when the fateful day arrived on 5 September 1998.
A deep cross whipped in by roving right back Kadir Yahya was met by the shoulder of the then 23-year-old Sasikumar before looping into the goal.
The 65th minute effort turned out to be the winner in a tight final.
And perhaps, because of all the trouble and the occasion itself, the defender is confident of calling it “the best goal in Singapore”.
Graphic: Nurul Jannah
“Given the significance and the journey, it is perhaps the best goal in Singapore. We went through a lot,” he says.
“We had to pay for our own pre-season tour! They took it off our bonuses. Barry was under a lot of pressure as well and expectations were low. So to win it like we did was a great achievement.”
“Football in Singapore, there is no such thing as continuity. The 1998 squad was one with a great blend of experience and youth and it had the real Singapore spirit.”
Now, a proud dad of two, Sasikumar has yet to tell the story to his sons.
“They are too young so I haven’t really talked about it. Well, if they know then great but it’s not something that I am going to lose sleep over,” says the managing director of Integrated Sports Marketing and Communications Agency, Red Card Group.
Given what has transpired in his career though, losing sleep might not necessarily be such a bad thing after all.
Main Photo: World Sport Group