death by paper cut

{February 1, 2007}   its a match, not just a game

In front of 55,000 screaming fans – the second time in four days that the stadium was sold out – Singapore beat Thailand 2-1 to carry a one-goal advantage going into Sunday’s Asean Football Championship second-leg final in Bangkok.

It was also the first time since a 2-0 win in 1977 that the Lions have beaten the Thais in regulation at home.

On a night when Kallang was packed also for the nostalgic factor – the stadium will be torn down this year to make way for the new Sports Hub – fans will be left with the memory of not only a rare Singapore win but also a night of drama.

There were goals to cherish, one of them a controversial penalty, a walk-out by the Thai team, and plenty of theatrics to leave even the most neutral of fans entertained.

– excerpt from Marc Lim for ST Interactive

“its a match, not just a game,” a friend of mine used to tell me. and what a match that it was. i cannot claim to be a football fan, in fact i do not follow most sporting events. but i was glad that the geek suggested that we went to the 1st leg of the final of the asean football championship at kallang stadium. i was there to soak in the atmosphere, to witness first hand die hard fans at the peak of their passion, to experience the kallang stadium in operation for the very last time and also to savour the solidarity of singaporeans.

unprecedentedly, the development of the match that led to the intense anxiety of the people seated around me moved me to read my first ever sports article. even so, i will not attempt to dissect or analysize the blow by blow account of the match or comment on the validity of the penalty kick that singapore was awarded. i will however give my take on the question that a roving ST reporter posed the geek; should singaporeans be considered fair-weather fans since the S-League doesn’t enjoy a similar level of support i.e. full house capacity?

in the rawest of emotions that i witnessed at the grand stand, benedict anderson’s definition of the nation as an imagined community came to mind. “It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion…it is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings.”

the borders distinguishing the different constituencies in singapore are blurred. these boundaries are drawn up quite arbitrarily and also relatively recently. horizontal comradeship as benedict anderson describes will only be more apparent in the face of a common adversary. one of my university lecturers, an englishman who has resided in singapore for long time commented that nationalism was at its grandest display when singapore participated in the malaysian cup, perhaps with the asean football championships, we are back.

still, beyond a victory at the 2nd leg, what i hope for most is the safety of everyone in bangkok. being the idealist that i am, i hope that people can leave what happens on the field, on the field. i wish that the asean football championship didn’t have to occur in or get compounded by political hostility.

elsewhere in singapore


so ironic that goal post isn’t removed

update: singapore won the 2007 asean football championships away in bangkok! and according to a friend of mine who tagged along as an FAS official (in white), there was no time at which the singapore team felt threatened or that their safety was in anyway compromised.


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