Lions' coach unhappy with his players for swapping shirts with Argentina footballers too early

Shamir Osman
The New Paper
14 June 2017

It started soon after the 83rd minute, when Angel di Maria stood behind the byline and decided that he would shoot directly for goal from the corner.

A few fans got off their seats and moved towards the Argentina bench, took their autograph books out, and had their mobile phones at the ready - in camera mode, of course.

Argentina were only 4-0 up over Singapore at that point, but it did not matter. They wanted a piece of the foreign stars, and they were not alone. Argentina went on to score two more goals to win 6-0, as the group of autograph hunters grew in size.

But all those fans were beaten to a piece of Argentine memorabilia by at least two players.

Two overeager Lions - who were engaging these football stars in battle at the Republic's premier sporting arena, no less - asked for the jerseys of di Maria and Juventus star Paulo Dybala as they were walking off the pitch at half-time.

No, they could not wait till the match was over.

See, V Sundramoorthy's Lions were giving a good account of themselves in the first half, making Argentina look almost boring.

The visitors did score two goals from set-pieces, but from open play, Singapore were doing decently against the two-time World Cup winners.

Hassan Sunny was dependable as always between the Singapore sticks, Daniel Bennett marshalled the defence well, and Hariss Harun was doing a decent job in midfield.

Indeed, Singapore fans were even treated to some nice bits of skill by Nazrul Nazari on the right flank.

Even if the Lions did not manage to test Nahuel Guzman in the Argentina goal, not a single fan among the 28,044 in the stadium would have faulted them.

Said Sundram: "The boys competed. In the first half, we made it difficult for them, and they scored from only two set-pieces, and I thought those were the turning points.

"This is against one of the top teams in the world, and the boys gave their best, and I think they learnt some lessons."


But his demeanour changed when TNP asked him to comment on his players changing jerseys with their more illustrious opponents at half-time.

"That should be done after the game," said the former FC Basel player, his voice dropping to a murmur as he finished that sentence.

"I wasn't aware of this."

Pictures of a shirtless Zulfahmi Arifin asking for the jersey of Dybala have already made it to social media, along with those of Safuwan Baharudin and di Maria.

All these were done even before any of those players stepped off the pitch at half-time.

On the pitch in the second half, it got worse, with some parts looking almost like a Sunday football match.

Izwan Mahbud had come on for Hassan Sunny five minutes after the resumption of play, but appeared to struggle to kick the ball, using his left foot instead of his stronger right foot.

Defender Bennett had to drop back to take Singapore's goal kicks.

Instead of hauling him off, Singapore brought on Faris Ramli for Faritz Hamid in the 86th minute, with Izwan going on to concede two more goals after that.

"Izwan took his first kick with his right leg, and he pulled a muscle, but we thought he could carry on, with the defenders taking the goal-kicks," was all Sundram would say about his decision to keep Izwan on the pitch.

The score was 6-0 on the night, and few would criticise the Lions for the obvious gulf in standards.

But Sundram's sullen face when asked about his jersey-hunting Lions perhaps told the story of the current state of Singapore football, even if the game has been organised for 125 years.

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