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Singapore Is Back In The Malaysia Cup


The Malaysia Cup looks set to revive the interest in local football. (Photo: SSC) 


After a 17-year absence, the Malaysia Cup fever is back again.

 

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) last month, which among other things included the participation in the Malaysia Cup.

 

Starting next year, a Singapore Lions side will participate in the 14-team Malaysian Super League and the Malaysia and FA Cups while the Malaysian Under-23 team, the Harimau Muda (Young Tigers) will join the S.League, League Cup and the Singapore Cup.

 

The Singapore team will comprise three foreign signings and five senior national players with the rest of the 33-man squad made up of Under-23 footballers.

 

From the 1970s to 1994, crowds of 60,000 packed into the National Stadium for Malaysia Cup games to catch household icons such as Quah Kim Song, Dollah Kassim, Fandi Ahmad and V Sundramoorthy and joined the famous Kallang Roar.

 

Fans are already excitedly looking forward to next year, as many believe Singapore's return to the Malaysia Cup will lead to reigniting the football fever in the country.

 

And if the recent giant clash between Singapore and Malaysia in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers was anything to go by, demand for Malaysia Cup tickets will be at an all-time high.

 

Serving up one of the greatest derby classics of all time, Singapore won the first leg match 5-3 in front of a sell out Jalan Besar stadium, with fans queuing up for tickets overnight before selling out within six hours.

 

Similarly, the overwhelming response was replicated by the Malaysian fans in the return leg, where the Lions held their nerves to eliminate the Tigers from the tournament with a gutsy 1-1 draw. All 85,000 tickets were sold out two days before kick-off at the Bukit Jalil stadium. In the sea of yellow and blue, a little red dot of 500 Singapore fans made the trip to support the Lions, unfazed by the deafening atmosphere.

 

Amongst the Singapore faithful in Kuala Lumpur, Gerard Tan remarked, “ The atmosphere was truly electrifying. This is how football should be played - in front of a capacity crowd. The entire trip here, from the coach ride to the final whistle was truly memorable and I’m definitely looking forward to returning here when the Singapore selection side plays the likes of Selangor, Pahang and Kedah.     

 

Annamalai Allagappan, 33, echoed his sentiments, “It’s really exciting to see the return of the Malaysia Cup.”

 

“I have been waiting for this for a very long time as I remember skipping classes to see the Lions. I can't wait to travel to Malaysia with my family, especially my four-year-old son, as I want to show them what it means to support our country.”

 

“I hope the away matches will be scheduled on the weekends as it will be easier to travel with my family,” he added.

 

Two new tournaments, the League Champions Challenge and the Cup Winners Challenge, will also be set up and is due to take place annually.

 

The League Champions Challenge will see the champions of the S.League take on the Malaysia Super League champions while the Cup Winners Challenge will see the Singapore Cup and Malaysia Cup champions go head to head, with both competitions to played in a home-and-away format.

 

This partnership will allow for both national teams including youth teams to play as many friendly matches as possible to foster closer ties between the national and youth teams of both countries.

 

FAS President Zainudin Nordin said the key purpose of playing in Malaysia would be to give young local talent the chance to perform in front of capacity crowds.

 

He also admitted that there was much work to be done to make this venture successful. “The key points of this partnership cannot be achieved overnight. It will take days, weeks and even months of planning as we iron out the creases. But I would like to reiterate that these are positive moves. I seek the patience and kind understanding of the media and public while we work round the clock to make it happen.