Football: Lions vow Tigers balm to ease Shahdan's pain

(Above) Singapore midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman, recovering from a broken fibula, resting in hospital with his wife Suzi Elya and son Shaqeel. The injury will keep the player out for six months. (Left) The horrendous sight of Shahdan's (front) ankle be
(Above) Singapore midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman, recovering from a broken fibula, resting in hospital with his wife Suzi Elya and son Shaqeel. The injury will keep the player out for six months. (Left) The horrendous sight of Shahdan's (front) ankle being mangled in the accidental collision with team-mate Khairul Amri during the match against Myanmar at the National Stadium on Wednesday.PHOTO COURTESY OF SAFUWAN BAHARUDIN ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
(Above) Singapore midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman, recovering from a broken fibula, resting in hospital with his wife Suzi Elya and son Shaqeel. The injury will keep the player out for six months. (Left) The horrendous sight of Shahdan's (front) ankle be
(Above) Singapore midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman, recovering from a broken fibula, resting in hospital with his wife Suzi Elya and son Shaqeel. The injury will keep the player out for six months. (Left) The horrendous sight of Shahdan's (front) ankle being mangled in the accidental collision with team-mate Khairul Amri during the match against Myanmar at the National Stadium on Wednesday.PHOTO COURTESY OF SAFUWAN BAHARUDIN ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Always  ready to offer a comment on football, a teasing remark on someone's fashion sense or, quite simply, a warm smile, Shahdan Sulaiman is a rare unanimous favourite among his team-mates and journalists.

So when the Singapore midfielder collapsed in agony after fracturing the fibula and dislocating the ankle in his right leg against Myanmar, the crestfallen looks of his team-mates were mirrored in the media tribune at the National Stadium.

The Lions were in no mood to celebrate after Wednesday's 4-2 win in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup. As soon as they reached the team hotel, a group of players skipped dinner and set out to visit the stricken Shahdan at Raffles Hospital.

Defender Safuwan Baharudin - who has shared a room with the Tampines Rovers player on international duty since 2010 - stood by his bedside for several hours to offer encouraging words and advice for his dejected comrade.

"Shahdan was there for me whenever I was down and out injured. He's like a brother to me so to see him like this is sad," said the 23-year-old, a past victim of torn ligaments and a dead leg which required surgery. "What's even more devastating is he hardly gets injured. I'm not sure how he's going to cope, but he will definitely have my support."

Recognised as one of the best passers in the squad, Shahdan, 27, faces a six-month layoff after undergoing successful surgery yesterday.

The innocuous clash with team-mate Khairul Amri in the 21st minute was still on the players' minds yesterday. From the bench, forward Fazrul Nawaz said he closed his eyes and prayed after hearing his compatriot scream in pain as bones sickeningly moved in different directions.

With an unfortunate close-up view of the incident in his penalty box, goalkeeper Hassan Sunny's mind flashed back to his own injury nightmare.

"For the rest of the match, I was only thinking about Shahdan - I've been through two years of hell and I don't wish it on anyone else," said the 30-year-old, who twice ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

"It was a sad night for us despite the win."

Shahdan's absence for the rest of the competition is all the more glaring given the exclusion of defensive midfielders Isa Halim and Fahrudin Mustafic.

With vice-captain Hariss Harun likely to cover for suspended centre-back Baihakki Khaizan for Saturday's vital clash against the Tigers of Malaysia, Singapore coach Bernd Stange is expected to turn to the inexperienced duo of Zulfahmi Arifin, who had a quiet game against Myanmar after replacing Shahdan, and Hafiz Sujad, who was not even named among the substitutes on Wednesday.

No matter who is stepping in, the Lions dressing room is united for a single cause. A determined Hassan said: "We are playing for Shahdan. We will get the win against Malaysia to put a smile back on his face."

nsanjay@sph.com.sg