Lifestyle Sports Ticket woes and friendlies disappointment leave fans disillusioned with Lions

Ticket woes and friendlies disappointment leave fans disillusioned with Lions

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The disappointment extended beyond the matches as fans turned to social media to vent their frustration after the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) announced that tickets were fully snapped up for both games.

SINGAPORE — The Lions’ inability to secure a win in their friendly matches against Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, ending in a 2-2 and 1-1 draws, respectively, was likely frustrating for both the fans and the Singapore national football team head coach, Takayuki Nishigaya.

The disappointment extended beyond the matches as fans turned to social media to vent their frustration after the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) announced that tickets were fully snapped up for both games.

Hopes were high for a near-capacity audience in the 55,000-seat venue cheering the Lions, but much to their disbelief, only three seating sections were accessible to fans. A news report by The Straits Times revealed about 4,918 fans attended the first match against Papua on June 16.

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Photo inside the stadium which shows only a few section open for ticketed fans during Singapore match against Solomon Islands

Fans unable to purchase a ticket for the Papua match could only rely on the match highlights, as FAS did not provide a livestream for the first game. However, FAS made amends in the subsequent match by providing a livestream with commentary for the Solomon encounter on Jun 18.

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In their first match, Singapore, ranked 158th, took on Papua, one spot below them. The game proved to be an exciting affair resulting in four goals. However, the Lions were left ruing missed opportunities which could see them seal the victory for coach Nishigaya in his home debut at the National Stadium.

Ati Keo cancelled Adam Swandi’s opener in the 23rd minute in the 42nd minute. Singapore regained their lead just before the half-time interval courtesy of Shawal Anuar but an error by Shakir Hamzah allowed Raymond Gunemba to level the score to 2-2 in the 45th minute. The score remained the same until the full-time whistle.

With barely 48 hours of rest after the first game, coach Nishigaya significantly changed his first eleven for the second match against 134th-ranked Solomon. Players such as goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, Shakir Hamzah, Glenn Kweh, Faris Ramli, Hafiz Nor, and Shah Shahiran started the match on the substitute bench. The players that replaced them on the field did not perform poorly. However, similar to the first match, they lacked a clinical finish after a decent build-up play. Singapore took the lead courtesy of Shawal in the 32nd minute, but Solomon equalised through Joses Nawo five minutes before the end of regulation time.

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Naturally, some quarters may be unhappy, especially considering that our causeway rival Malaysia had comfortably defeated Solomon 4-1 just a week ago. However, one must question whether coach Nishigaya’s objectives for these two friendly matches have been achieved.

“The two matches (in March) showed that there are no easy games at international level and my challenge to the players was to improve daily and to put in a consistent level of performance back in the Singapore Premier League to fight for their places in the national team. We need to have strong competition for places in the national team as that is one way for us to improve,” said coach Nishigaya who led the team in March against Hong Kong (1-1 draw) and Macau (1-0 win).

Coach Nishigaya then shared that the matches in June presented him with the opportunity to assess the performance of the new players in the national team. The five players that received their first call-up to the national team are Balestier Khalsa goalkeeper Hairul Syirhan, Hougang United defender Jordan Vestering, Tanjong Pagar United midfielders Fathullah Rahmat and Naqiuddin Eunos along with Young Lions captain Harhys Stewart.

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Despite the potential long-term benefits of coach Nishigaya’s tinkering with the national team squad and the inclusion of new and young players, the fans’ patience is wearing thin. They have high expectations for better performance and a much-needed win soon from the four-time AFF Championship winners.

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