Fractious, friendly, feisty: The highs and lows of Singapore-Malaysia football

Azammuddin Akil (right) thwarting LionsXII’s Nazrul Nazari in a chase for the ball during a Malaysia Cup match on Nov 24, 2015.
Azammuddin Akil (right) thwarting LionsXII’s Nazrul Nazari in a chase for the ball during a Malaysia Cup match on Nov 24, 2015.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - Singapore will once again exit from the Malaysian football scene, following Tuesday's revelation that the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) will not renew its four-year partnership with its neighbours.

The Straits Times looks at the highs and lows of Singapore's participation in football across the Causeway.

1921: Singapore won the inaugural Malaysia Cup tournament - then known as Malaya Cup - by beating Selangor 2-1. It would be the first of 24 titles.

1925: Singapore host their first final at the now-defunct Anson Road Stadium. They beat Selangor 2-1 again to lift the Cup.

1942-47: No competition due to World War II.

1967: The tournament is renamed the Malaysia Cup. Singapore lose 1-2 to Perak in the final. But Singapore did not participate in the competition the following year.

1977: Singapore ended a 12-year wait for the trophy as they won the Malaysia Cup under legendary coach Choo Seng Quee. Quah Kim Song was the hero when he scored the winner in a 3-2 extra time victory over Penang. Following their victory, the team and officials were later feted to an Istana party.


Doing a lap of honour after beating Penang 3-2 in the 1977 Malaysia Cup final are (front row, from left) Lim Teng Sai, Edmund Wee, V. Khanisen and Zainal Abidin. PHOTO: ST FILE

1980: A 17-year-old Fandi Ahmad signals his arrival by scoring the winner in Singapore's 2-1 win over defending champions Selangor to regain the Cup under coach Jita Singh.

1982-84: Singapore were not invited to take part in the Malaysia Cup competition. The argument for that overnight move was because of match-fixing allegations in the 1981 final, which Singapore lost 4-0 to Selangor.

The move also came as a result of a proposal to the FAM "that the 1982 Malaysia Cup matches be played by teams which participated in 1981 but without Singapore". Singapore, as a "guest team", were regarded as having been "arrogant, proud and boastful" towards one of the Malaysian state teams.

As a result of Singapore's exit in 1982, many of the Republic's top players went on to play for their Cup rivals.

 

Fandi and Malek Awab moved north to Kuala Lumpur FC and Federal Territory, as did K. Kannan to the Malaysian capital. V. Sundramoorthy headed further north to Kedah. Abbas Saad and Alistair Edwards also crossed the Causeway.

1994: Singapore completed an historic Malaysia Premier League and Cup double. Led by captain Fandi, his side thrashed Pahang 4-0 in the Cup final to clinch their first inter-state crown in 14 years, thanks to a hat-trick from Saad.


 Abbas Saad holding the 1994 Malaysia Cup trophy, PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILES

The Lions' Kiwi coach Douglas Moore said: "My guys mesmerised and murdered them."

Upon the team's arrival at Changi Airport, Moore and his squad had their the victory parade, climaxing at the National Stadium where an army of 20,000 fans partied the day away.

Mah Bow Tan, then president of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), said: "This is the Christmas and New Year present, and also the Chinese New Year hongbao from our footballers to the whole of Singapore."

But the joy soon turned sour.

FAS announced that it was pulling out of the Malaysia Cup to form its own domestic competition, the S-League. A decision was made "in the longer-term interest of soccer in S'pore... because we want to promote our own league".

 

But the sticking point was a bitter spat over the gate levy, which Malaysia wanted to increase from 20 to 35 per cent, and match-fixing allegations.

July 2011: FAS president Zainudin Nordin signed a landmark four-year partnership with FAM at its headquarters in Selangor for Singapore to return to the Malaysian domestic league competition.

Then, FAM deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah said: "With this move, we hope to relive the glory days."

The LionsXII, named in recognition of the fans who act as the 12th man on the pitch, was formed to represent the Republic in the Malaysian Super League (MSL), and the Malaysia and FA Cups. Led by coach V. Sundramoorthy, they called the 6,000-capacity Jalan Besar Stadium their home.

2012: The LionsXII kicked off their inaugural MSL campaign with a 1-2 loss to Kelantan at Jalan Besar. They would go on to finish runners-up to Kelantan in the MSL that season.

2013: The LionsXII bagged Singapore's first title in the MSL, in just their second season.


 LionsXII footballers celebrate their victory after they defeated KL Felda United during the Malaysian Super League to clinch the title, July 2, 2013. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILES

 

Skipper Shahril Ishak said: "This is a win for the new generation of football fans who weren't brought up in the Fandi era... They now have a young, new team to believe in. Finally, I have my first league title and this is the one the country had waited 19 years for. This is the fulfilment of a childhood dream."

May 2015: The LionsXII, led by coach Fandi Ahmad, took home the Malaysia FA Cup trophy, beating Kelantan 3-1 in the final played at the Bukit Jalil Stadium.

Fandi said: "I have won the league before but this is my first Cup as a coach. A Cup is always very special and this is such a sweet feeling."

November 2015: The FAM announced that it will not be renewing the partnership signed with FAS, thereby ending Singapore's participation in all competitions in the Malaysia domestic calendar.