Football: Historic rivalry between Singapore and Malaysia to be renewed at KL SEA Games

Irfan Fandi, son of the Singapore football legend Fandi Ahmad, ready to lead the forward line at the upcoming SEA Games PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

SINGAPORE - From the days of the Malaysia Cup to the Asian Football Federation Championship, there is perhaps no other tie that gets football fans on both sides of the Causeway more riled up than Singapore versus Malaysia. With the next "Causeway Clash" set to happen on Wednesday (Aug 16) in their South-east Asia Games group match, The Straits Times looks at the rich football rivalry and history between the two neighbours.

1. Drawn in same 2017 SEA Games group

The stage is set for the latest episode of the Singapore-Malaysia footballing rivalry, with the Singapore U-22 team very likely needing a positive result against their Malaysian opponents at the Shah Alam Stadium in Kuala Lumpur to progress out of the group stage.

The Young Lions face a challenging first two games at the SEA Games, taking on Myanmar on Monday before they play the SEA Games hosts two days later. Laos and Brunei are the other two teams in Group A. Young Lions coach Richard Tardy has said that the team will need at least two points from their first two matches to have a chance of achieving their objective of reaching the semi-finals.

He told The New Paper on Aug 11: "We have to be realistic, Myanmar and Malaysia are better than Singapore at this moment, but this is football, every game is different and anything can happen in football. I told the players that we need to get two points from our first two games if we want to qualify for the semi-finals, but I believe we can make the target."

National Under-22 coach RichardTardy at a training session with his players, in their build-up towards the SEA Games on 27 June 2017. PHOTO: TNP

The 29th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur (Aug 19 to 30) will be available for streaming on three live channels on digital service Toggle, as well as free-to-air TV channel okto. Fans can follow the Young Lions on Toggle starting from Monday, when they play Myanmar.

Singapore's Under-22 coach, Richard Tardy (centre, facing camera) giving instructions to the players during their training session. Standing at right facing camera is Vincent Subramaniam, who was appointed as assistant coach. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

2. Traditionally a fiery affair

The Singapore-Malaysia derby used to be the highlight of the football calendar on both sides of the Causeway. When football fever for these two national teams was at its peak in the 1980s and early 1990s, queueing overnight for tickets was not uncommon.

The rivalry lay dormant for a number of years until the first Causeway Challenge was held in 2005, back when it used to be a two-legged contest. The friendly matches were part of an initiative by the Football Associations of Singapore and Malaysia to revive the football rivalry between the two countries.

The 2016 edition at the National Stadium ended in 0-0 stalemate, with V. Sundramoorthy's men unable to find a way past their rivals despite several good chances.

Faritz Hameed (left, no. 9) shows the attacking side of his game against Malaysia during the Causeway Challenge between Singapore and Malaysia at the National Stadium on 7 October 2016. The game ended in a 0-0 draw. PHOTO: TNP

Before last year, the previous Causeway Challenge was held in 2012, and was a heated affair. Scuffles between fans from both sides broke out at Jalan Besar Stadium in the first leg (watch below) that ended 2-2.

Remote video URL

A group of Malaysian Ultras burnt signs of Singapore currency, and booed when Singapore's national anthem was played in the second leg at the Shah Alam Stadium. Malaysia ended Singapore's 10-match unbeaten streak in their head-to-head record spanning eight years, beating their old rivals 2-0, as the highlights below show.

Causeway Challenge 2nd Leg: Malaysia 2 vs Singapore 0 - Singapore coach Raddy Avramovic (in black) is livid after Mustafic Fahrudin (lying down) is sent off despite being kneed by Bunyamin Umar during the match on 12 June 2012, PHOTO: TNP
Remote video URL

3. Rivalry goes online in 2011

After Singapore advanced to the third round of World Cup qualifiers at the expense of Malaysia, beating them 6-4 on aggregate, an online war broke out among its supporters. Malaysian fans, incensed by what they felt was the Lions' time-wasting tactics during the second leg of the second-round qualifier in Kuala Lumpur, created a Facebook page mocking the Singapore national side.

Lions goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Malaysia for the second-leg World Cup Qualifier football match between Singapore and Malaysia on 28 July 2011. The match ended in a draw with a score of 1-1. Singapore beat Malaysia 6-4 on aggregate. PHOTO: TNP

The spiteful nature of the discussions, peppered with obscenities and racist remarks, prompted concern in the football fraternities of both countries.

Tensions ran high during the first leg in Singapore on July 23, when missiles from Malaysia's travelling fans rained down on the Jalan Besar Stadium field after the Lions' fourth goal. The return leg was even more ill-tempered. Water bottles were aimed at the Singapore players after the final whistle, while Lions goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud was targeted by laser pointers during the game to distract him.

Remote video URL

4. Several veterans in Singapore squad featured in first Causeway Challenge in 2005

In V. Sundramoorthy's 25-strong squad, Baihakki Khaizan, Daniel Bennett, Fahrudin Mustafic, Izwan Mahbud, Hariss Harun, Yasir Hanapi played in the event's first edition.

Tiger Beer Causeway Challenge: Singapore 2 vs Malaysia 0 - Nor Fazly Alias (yellow jersey) stopping Itimi Dickson from getting control of the ball. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

5. Malaysia hold the bragging rights, for now

Malaysia own a 30-21 edge over Singapore, according to football stats website The two sides have drawn 21 times in 72 meetings. Singapore are eager to erase painful memories of their most recent loss to Malaysia at the National Stadium in 2014, when they were beaten 3-1 and bundled out of the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup group stages.

Remote video URL

6. Singapore's heaviest loss to Malaysia happened twice

The Tigers thrashed the Lions 6-0 not once, but twice. The first defeat came in the Olympic qualifiers in 1976 in Jakarta, and the second happened in 1978 at the Merdeka tournament. The Lions' biggest win over Malaysia was a 4-0 mauling in the 1985 Merlion Cup.

GOAL...Singapore striker D. Tokijan heads home the Republic's fourth and his second goal. ST FILE PHOTO

Below are highlights, though, of Malaysia's 4-0 destruction of the Lions to knock them out of the 2002 Tiger Cup group stage, which precipitated the sacking of then-national coach Jan Poulsen.

Remote video URL

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.