He was 19 when he first played at the old Kallang Stadium for the S.League selection side against Selangor FA. A Singapore Cup final appearance for Woodlands Wellington in front of a near-full house crowd followed not long after.
Eight years later, Singapore midfielder Isa Halim cannot wait to relive the atmosphere of the grand old dame at the new National Stadium in the Sports Hub, which is due to open in the coming months.
With a friendly match against Causeway rivals Malaysia on the cards for the opening match of the new stadium on the eve of National Day, the 27-year-old is raring to play in front of 55,000 people once again.
“I miss playing in front of 55,000 people and the goosebumps that fans give, especially when we sing the national anthem; you can feel a sense of pride and Singaporean spirit,” Isa shared during the Sports Hub media preview event last Thursday.
“As a player you are always looking forward to play in a full-house stadium [who are] cheering you on, especially now we have a Sports Hub that we can call our own. I hope the fans can give us tremendous support in the upcoming matches, especially in the first game against Malaysia."
Having been playing regularly at the 7,500-seater Jalan Besar Stadium for his club side, the LionsXII captain is thrilled at the thought of playing in a stadium with a seating capacity seven times as huge.
“Of course it will be very much different,” he said.
“With over 7,000 people, you can see even until the final whistle that we keep on fighting; with 55,000 behind us, I’m sure the boys’ spirits will be lifted even higher."
However, Isa is aware that getting a full-house crowd on a regular basis is no easy feat and admits the onus is on the players to make sure they entertain the crowd and give them a reason to come back and watch the team play.
“We need to show that we have the qualities to play in this kind of stadium,” he asserted.
“There’s no point having state-of-the-art facilities if we are not up to the mark. Performance-wise, we need to be entertaining as well so teams would want to come and play with us in the stadium."