|By Khalis Rifhan
At the launch of the 4-star national team jersey to commemorate the Lions’ historic fourth AFF Championship win last December, fans as well as players from the National Football Academy had the opportunity to hear stories of the past successes from previous Lions captains.
Nazri Nasir who led the team to its first regional success in 1998 spoke of how his side defied the odds to win the tournament in Vietnam.
“It was coach Barry Whitebread's last tournament with the team and I told the players why don’t we play all out for him," said Nazri.
"Both Thailand and Indonesia did not want to win their last game and top their group as the runners-up would meet us and they were confident of beating us in the final.
“That made us feel motivated and we were keen to show that we were not an easy team to beat and finally we made it to the final. Before the final, I kept on encouraging the players and we won the cup. That was the proudest moment of my footballing career.”
Singapore U-17 captain Adam Swandi who was present at the launch event was given the opportunity to ask current Singapore captain Shahril Ishak how he felt captaining the winning squad.
With no hesitation, Shahril said confidently: “It is a special moment for me not only on the field but off it too. But I was thankful that I had the seniors such as (Aleksandar) Duric, Mustafic (Fahrudin) and Baihakki (Khaizan) to help me out.”
"The most important thing is to always be disciplined and believe in yourselves, only then can you do it.”
Also keen to take a few pointers from their seniors, Singapore Under-21 captain Al-Qaasimy did not waste the chance to ask Aide Iskandar on whether they had any special preparations heading into a big match.
“We usually kept it simple and it is important to focus and concentrate," said Aide.
"If you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail.
“It is also important to build up on the 'semangat' (team spirit) in the dressing room, so that when we go out on to the field, we are more than ready to face any team.
“I hope that in sharing our stories today we will inspire the young players and help them understand what it takes to succeed in football. The support and response from the fans has been inspiring, and I am sure there are a lot of supporters out there who would feel proud to wear the national team kit, and be reminded of the Lions' achievements."
Aide is the only player to have been involved in all four AFF Championship winning teams, having won three as a player and the latest as part of the coaching staff.
All 100 sets of the commemorative limited edition kits were sold out on launch day at Suntec City. Weston Corporation will be selling the remaining 100 box sets at Queensway Shopping Centre on Friday, February 2.