Football: Winger Faris' return a boost for Singapore side

KUALA LUMPUR - He was miles away in Japan, tracking the second leg of the Malaysian FA Cup semi-final on his mobile phone with some of his team-mates.

"I was getting updates about the match and then suddenly I got a text message saying that Terengganu had scored," recounted Faris Ramli.

"It was so heart-breaking that I just fell off my chair.

"The next moment a message came in saying that the goal had been disallowed. It was crazy."

The LionsXII player was referring to the moment last Saturday when Terengganu's Nordin Elias had headed into the net in the 88th minute, only for the goal to be chalked off for offside.

The decision sparked an outcry from the Terengganu players on the pitch and later from the fans who rioted outside the stadium.

Faris is eager to cause a ruckus of his own in the final after missing the second leg as he was training in Japan with the Singapore Under-23 team as part of their preparations for the SEA Games.

Sahil Suhaimi and Christopher van Huizen had also missed out but are now back in contention for the LionsXII.

"When I scored in the first leg, I was hoping that the next time I play for the LionsXII, it would be in the final. Credit to my team-mates for making that happen. Now I have to go out there and show the same fighting spirit they did in the last match," said the 22-year-old of today's final when they will meet Kelantan.

Coach Fandi Ahmad will also be buoyed by the winger's return. Faris' absence was telling when the LionsXII fell to a 0-2 loss to the Red Warriors in a Malaysian Super League match in February.

In that encounter, Fandi's charges performed well but could not find an opening, something that Faris, with his silky dribbling skills, can provide.

Faris said: "As a wide player, I have a responsibility to create chances for the team but more importantly, as players, we need to give our all and play to coach's instructions. If we do that then I am confident that we can win it."

DEEPANRAJ GANESAN