Roaring welcome for LionsXII
MORE than 2,000 fans gathered at Changi Airport Terminal 2 to give the LionsXII players a rapturous welcome home yesterday, after their Malaysian FA Cup final win against Kelantan at Bukit Jalil on Saturday night.
Fans had gathered at the arrival hall awaiting the return of their footballing heroes, some even two hours before the team touched down at 6.10pm.
Housewife Sadiah Hamzah, 34, who was there at 4pm with her six children, aunt and husband, related to The Straits Times about the game: "We had to go to two weddings yesterday and rushed back to watch the game.
"The house felt as if there was an earthquake when they scored since there were 15 people in a three-room flat!"
At the airport, chants of "Ole, Ole, Ole", "Campeones, Campeones" (Spanish for champions), and even the National Anthem echoed throughout the arrival hall, drawing curious looks from travellers.
When the team finally appeared holding the trophy aloft, a deafening roar greeted them, with camera bulbs flashing away.
Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, who were present to welcome the team, paraded the trophy around with the LionsXII players and coach Fandi Ahmad.
Fandi, whom the fans greeted with a birthday song as he will be turning 53 on Friday, was "surprised at the huge support" and said it was an "early birthday present".
"This will be a good beginning of a new football era, hopefully the youth will be inspired by this," said Fandi, before he was interrupted by his wife Wendy Jacobs, who embraced him warmly, planting a kiss on his cheek.
LionsXII fan Faizal Jamil, 31, said: "It's an experience you won't feel again. Priceless. The LionsXII being in the final was a bonus. The win just added to the situation and made it a special occasion."
Mr Tan said: "I think for a lot of us, especially the older ones, we always remember the Malaysia Cup days, so this really brings back memories."
Mr Wong added: "I'm sure our SEA Games team will get a lot of confidence from what the LionsXII have done, and I'm sure if they show the same grit and fighting spirit as the LionsXII, we will get good results for the SEA Games as well."
Two-goal hero Sahil Suhaimi had this message for his SEA Games teammates: "Don't ever give up, fight until the last minute and make sure your hard work pays off.
"We should do well in the beginning of the SEA Games, to have the fans' support that will really give us a moral boost and keep us going."
Additional reporting by Lok Weng Seng and Ho Si Rui