Facebook photo has Singapore and Azkals fans in heated exchange

Fans from both nations get stirred after a rallying call for Singaporeans to attend the home leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup semi-finals against Philippines
By Bhas Kunju
Kenneth Ho

A photo posted on the Facebook page of popular football forum KallangRoar.com has inadvertently ignited a war of words between Singapore and Philippines fans.

The photo in question is a snippet of a Straits Times article from 2011 highlighting the large Filipino turnout at the Singapore-Philippines friendly at Jalan Besar Stadium, but with a red X marked over it.

Incidentally, Philippines' match against the Lions earlier this year was also marked by a disproportionately higher turnout from the away fans. The same pattern was also observed during the visit of Philippines club Loyola Meralco who reached the semi-finals of the Singapore Cup.

Philippines fans at Jurong West Stadium, Singapore, for September's friendly

Poor turnout from Singapore fans has been a plaguing issue in recent years, as matches against China and Singapore Cup matches featuring teams from Myanmar and Thailand were all played in front of largely away fans.

Intended to be a rallying cry to get Singaporeans to attend the home leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final, the picture was posted with the message: "Dear fans, if you love Singapore football, please start buying tickets early. Say no to another mini Manila. Share this to (sic) your fellow Singaporean football fans. #sgfootball"

With almost a hundred shares and 270 likes since it's posting on the night of December 1, the photo has attracted close to 300 comments from both sets of fans.

The photo that stirred the sentiments of both sets of fans

While some of the comments were run-of-the-mill fan talk, others touched on the nagging issue of foreign population in Singapore.

Azkals fan Araceli Socorro wrote: That X mark is very controversial. Taking it as a picture alone, the message is NO FILIPINOS ALLOWED. Please be mindful of this. We know how tense the issues of Filipino foreign workers there in Singapore.

Another Philippines fan, Paul Lucero, added: "It is not the problem of the visiting Filipino fans if you can't fill your home stadium with your own fans. The real issue I think is the lack of interest of Singaporeans to the S League because they'd rather watch the Premier League. Let a thousand flowers bloom."

Singaporean fans also added to the exchange by asking for intervention from the authorities.

"Singaporean first. FAS should limit only 200 tickets to Filipinos," wrote Mohamed Rizal.

"Can someone with the authority do something about it? Should restrict the ticket sales to Singaporeans only, filipinos only can purchase balance tix on game day," added Azza Azman.

Nor Han Ru, a Lions fan however saw the need to take responsibility, "Why depend on FAS? We ourselves should take the initiative to go buy the tickets right after FAS announce instead of waiting until the day before or on match day itself."

Singapore will play their first leg of the AFF Suzuki semi-final in Manila Philippines on December 8. The return leg is scheduled to be played at Jalan Besar Stadium on December 12.