The '12th man' crucial in a football team

The "12th man" - the fans - is crucial to a football team's success.

In 2011, in an effort to drum up public support, Iceland's coach Heimir Hallgrimsson pledged to meet the national team's fan club at a pub near the stadium before every home game, where he previewed starting line-ups and shared tactical insights with them.

Seven fans showed up at the first meeting. That has now grown to a crowd of hundreds. These meetings bonded fans to their team tightly, and they have made their presence felt in every match since - in 2016, Iceland supporters bought 27,000 tickets to the Euros in France.

In contrast, less than 1,000 spectators turned up for the recent Singapore Under-23 friendly match against Myanmar.

Says Iceland's goalkeeper Hannes Thor Halldorsson: "We're playing for the love of football, love of country. You can feel the joy we're bringing our supporters... It's football at its most beautiful."

Singapore football experienced that spirit in the 1970s and 1980s, when tens of thousands filled the old National Stadium.

Let's hope that spirit can be ignited again, perhaps by 2056 - SG100 - nine World Cups from now.

Wong Horng Ginn

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2018, with the headline 'The '12th man' crucial in a football team'. Print Edition | Subscribe