52 years of bumps, betrayals and bicycle kicks
1. The opening of the National Stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub
On September 29, 2010, construction began on the new National Stadium. There were some delays along the way and the final cost of S$1.87 billion was well above the original budget. The pitch has also come in for some criticism, but overall Singaporeans have a plush, modern stadium for which they can be proud.
2. 1998 ASEAN Football Championship
A tournament that will forever be shrouded in controversy. With Thailand and Indonesia assured of reaching the semi-finals, the winner of their group clash would face hosts and favourites Vietnam in the final four and the loser would face Singapore, perceived as the easybeats of the remaining teams.
That led to the farcical scene of Indonesian defender Mursyid Effendi deliberately scoring an own-goal in stoppage time to ensure a 3-2 defeat.
But the Lions would have the last laugh – beating Indonesia in the semis and then Vietnam 1-0 in the final in one of the competition’s biggest upsets to claim their first international title.
Indonesia and Thailand were handed $40,000 fines and Effendi was banned from international football for life.
3. Fandi Ahmad
In terms of Singapore’s football history, it could almost be considered a shame Fandi Ahmad wasn’t born three years later than his birth date of May 29, 1962, so he could celebrate his 52nd birthday the same year as his nation.
Finishing his career with a swag of honours at club level, he scored a record 55 goals in 101 appearances for the national team and became the first Singaporean to play in Europe (see highlights at No.22 below).
He has also enjoyed great success in the coaching ranks and he even founded his own academy. His legacy is also living on through his children, with his eldest sons Irfan and Ikhsan currently flying the flag high for the nation.
4. Lions records tumble
In January 2007, Singapore achieved a national record 11–0 win against Laos in an AFF Championship match. Mohd Noh Alam Shah picked up a significant personal milestone, scoring a record seven goals in that match. He would end the tournament with 17 goals to be named Most Valuable Player.
5. FIFA Rankings
In the FIFA World Rankings, Singapore's highest standing of 73rd was achieved in the first release of the figures, back in August 1993. Singapore was also the Asian Football Confederation’s 'Mover of the Year' in 2005. Sadly, the Lions can only dream of those highs at the moment.
6. A second AFF title is secured
The 2004 edition of the AFF Championship was co-hosted by Vietnam and Malaysia, but Indonesia were the hot favourites after they cruised through the group stages undefeated, scoring 17 goals without reply.
They would ultimately meet Singapore in the two-legged final and the Lions would prove far too strong, recording a 3-1 victory in Jakarta before sealing the trophy with a 2-1 triumph at Kallang Stadium.
7. Kallang Stadium is opened
Shortly after independence, calls began for a national stadium to be built. Work on the design started in 1965 and the project officially began the following year.
Upon completion, the first fixture at the stadium was a hockey match between Singapore and Australia in June 1973, while the first football match was the Sultan Gold Cup final between Singapore Malays and Kelantan Malays, won 4-1 by the former.
The complex was officially opened by then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in July that year and in time, Muhammad Ali, the Pope, David Bowie and Stevie Wonder would be among the identities to appear.
8. FAS withdraws from Malaysian competition
Singapore took part in – and won – the inaugural Malaya Cup back in 1921, going on to claim 24 Malaysia Cup titles and two Malaysian League titles in the ensuing years.
But it all came crashing down over a dispute with the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) over gate receipts, shortly after Singapore won the 1994 league and cup double.
It would be 18 years before a Singaporean team would compete again across the Causeway (see point No.18).
9. Scoreless draw with Australia’s Socceroos
On the surface of it, a 0-0 draw with Australia in a friendly match at Kallang may not seem all that meritorious.
Yet prior to the game, Singapore had lost seven consecutive fixtures against the Socceroos, including a couple of hammerings by 6-1 and 5-1 scorelines.
The Australian side in 2008 also featured Harry Kewell, Mile Jedinak and Archie Thompson and was on its way to qualifying for a second straight World Cup. It remains Singapore’s only result against the side in green and gold.
10. A new National Stadium record
A total of 52,107 people crammed into the stadium in June this year to watch first Singapore go down 2-0 in a competitive clash with Stoke City, before Arsenal put on a masterclass in a 3-1 victory over Everton in the final of the Barclays Asia Trophy.
It surpassed the total of 51,577 that attended the showdown between Japan and Brazil 12 months earlier.