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WC Qualification Asia

Safawi: It felt like being in a war zone

08:42 GMT+4 07/09/2019
Safawi Rasid, Indonesia v Malaysia, 2022 World Cup qualifier, 5 Sep 2019
The Johor Darul Ta'zim player has played in many matches in many different stadiums across the world but the GBK experience was new even for him.

Like many of his team mates on the night, the atmosphere at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium affected Safawi Rasid's game when the first whistle was blew as Indonesia flew out of their blocks to put Malaysia under intense pressure in the opening match of the Group G joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualification.

But together, they found their feet and the rest was history. Gaining control of the match, Malaysia grew in confidence as Indonesia faded away. Safawi had gone close with two free kick attempts in the first half and it was his pinpoint cross in the second half that provided the second equaliser of the match, for Syafiq Ahmad to nod in from close range.

"We cannot deny that we struggled with our touch and confidence in the first half. But went we went into the dressing room, the coach motivated us to make a memorable comeback. When the trouble happened, we kept our focus because if we don't we would have been careless and not get the win.

"The atmosphere was very different and difficult for us to adapt. But we managed towards the end of the first half which set the tone for the second half," said Safawi after the match.

Events off the pitch took the shine off what was a remarkable performance by Tan Cheng Hoe's team in Jakarta. The game had to be stopped for ten minutes to allow the stadium personnel to usher Indonesian fans back into their seats after they have crossed over to the track surrounding the pitch.

It was certainly a hairy moment and one that was new even for Safawi. The Malaysian team had to return to their team hotel via the use of the barracuda vehicle which is essentially an armoured tank.

"It felt like being in a war zone. I've never seen fans come onto the pitch and getting into the barracuda, it's a new experience for me in football," he added.


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