Posted by: buggy | 10 January, 2008

Grand Old Lady

I came across these pics while uploading some photos from my camera onto my Mac.

9 November 2007. National Stadium. The Grand Old Lady.

East Entrance, 7:30pm, it was a cool and breezy night. The perfect weather for football.

The Lions had made it to the last round of the qualifiying stages for the World Cup 2010 Finals Asia Zone Group Table. Kheva and me had made the trip down to the National Stadium to watch them take on Tajikistan.

For me it was something of a spiritual return to the place which had held so many good memories. Milling around the East Entrance, nothing much had changed since 1994. 14 years ago, I had followed the exploits of our beloved Lions (Fandi, Sundram, Lim Tong Hai, Jang Jung, Abbas Saad, Alistair Edwards and gang) in the M League and M Cup. Back then, before the inception of our S League, we mixed it up with our arch-rivals from across the Causeway. We played in the Malaysian League. And we won the double that year in 1994. And I attended every single home game at the National Stadium that year.

Well, one thing HAD changed. I bought a bottle of mineral water, and was promptly told by the vendor that “now cannot bring plastic bottle into stadium. cannot. cannot.”. So, I had to take it in a plastic bag. Weak!

I guess it was done to prevent the crowd from having missiles to throw. But hey, the way I see it, if I really wanted to find something to throw, I can always throw my shoes or slippers. I certainly remember having many handy things to throw in 1994. The mandatory match-day New Paper, and the killer National Stadium Indian curry puff. Ahhh… those were the days…

After ascending the short flight of steps leading into the stadium itself, the memories came flooding back. The seats were still as old, and still as deadly on the bum. You could easily get a few splinters from the old wood. Unforgettable. 🙂

The match went well, considering Tajikistan were something of an unknown quantity to us. But we eventually prevailed with a brace of goals from newly-minted Singaporean citizen, Alexander Duric.

With the match won at 2-0, the Lions did us proud in the return leg in Dushanbe, Tajikistan where they held the Tajiks to a 1-1 draw.

Strangely, the National Stadium had been “officially” closed down, and scheduled to be torn down after the curtain-closing match between Singapore and the Socceroos of Australia couple of months earlier. I guess no one in the FAS believed that we would make it past Tajikistan and into the group stages, because last I read, the National Stadium will host ONE LAST HOME MATCH when the Lions host Lebanon on 26 March 2008.

You can be sure, I’ll try my best to be at that final, last hurrah for the Grand Old Lady.

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