By Khalis Rifhan
There was a time when people said
That Singapore won't make it, but we did
There was a time when troubles seemed too much
For us to take, but we did
When Hugh Harrison wrote this song in 1987, one could never imagine that it would be not only be apt for describing our nation, but that it would also be deeply relatable to the sport that every Singaporeans simply cannot detach themselves from.
A nation built on the sweat and perseverance of our forefathers, defeat is usuallly unthinkable but success is at times unimaginable. But being a football fan in Singapore definitely brings about a roller-coaster of emotions.
Many had suffered the bitterness of seeing the Lions beaten by the basketball-mad nation of Philippines in two friendlies prior to the tournament, and then there are those who hate our head coach Radojko ‘Raddy’ Avramovic for not guiding us to the World Cup.
In recent years we have also suffered the agony of failures when the script was supposed to be written in our favour, with the 2008 and 2010 AFF Suzuki Cups coming to mind.
But somehow, like a magician, Raddy has once again pulled a rabbit out of his hat, almost presenting it as a sarcastic gift after the criticism from the ever-demanding fans.
Who would have ever thought that Singapore would make it to the finals of 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup? Who would have even put their money on Singapore slamming three past the majestic Thailand?
Dreams and reality are often an opposite attractions rather than similarities in an uncertain world of football but somehow when the reality looks gloomy for us, we ride on the waves of optimism that has brought us up from the fishing village to this modern era of ours.
Yes we may have faltered in the friendlies, but I believe those defeats carved out and awakened the Lions in each and every player.
Like a true Lion that knows when to pick his fight and when to retreat and not divulge its strategy, the team and its ringmaster has cleverly masterminded a perfect move in a game of chess.
If there is any positive to draw from this topsy-turvy ride of our football team and Raddy’s tenure, it is that one must always give credit where it is due and not forget the words of our President Tony Tan when he was running for office: ‘Tested, Trusted and True’.
Raddy has tested numerous players in the run-up to the tournament, putting trust on his senior players to lead the young ones and sticking true to his footballing philosophy and securing confidence for the future of our nation's football.
We are 90 minutes away from a historic fourth AFF title and I am sure that every Singaporean will at the end of the day celebrate the victory of our national team as one united people.