Football: Once-in-a-lifetime chance for a Palace fan

Singapore-based Palace fans have flown to London to catch their club's second FA Cup final appearance at Wembley tonight.
Singapore-based Palace fans have flown to London to catch their club's second FA Cup final appearance at Wembley tonight.PHOTO: COURTESY OF ADAM FLINTER

The second he realised his club were through to the FA Cup final, Crystal Palace fan Andrew Fong was in a state of euphoria and found it difficult to shake off his glee.

After all, he had every reason to celebrate as it was the English Premier League outfit's first Cup final appearance since 1990.

He said: "The feeling still hasn't sunk in, to be honest.

"The whole thing was unbelievable and I couldn't stop smiling even after the win."

And even before Alan Pardew's men beat Watford 2-1 in the semi-finals, the 33-year-old had promised himself that he would head to Wembley should the Eagles win. True to his word, he will be the only Singaporean Palace supporter from a local fan club in attendance today when his team take on Manchester United.

Fong, who flew off on Thursday night, said: "The last time we made a final was in 1990 and who knows when we'll reach another one again. Deciding to go was an easy choice for me.

"It'll be an honour to visit the home of English football and it's a rare opportunity to see my club play in such a grand setting."

Fong moved to the town of Dartford, just outside the capital city, in England in 1992 and that was when he developed a fondness for London club Palace. The financial adviser explained: "In school, most of the boys were Spurs and Arsenal fans.

"They were always the cocky ones and would boast about their club but there were a few Palace boys. They were sincere as fans and very down to earth, so I was influenced."

Even when he came back to Singapore in 2001, his passion for the club remained strong and he met like-minded fans at Hannibal at Robertson Quay - home of the 30-strong unofficial Crystal Palace fan club.

Fong, the lone local in the fan club, added: "I get along well with the other members since we share the same love and it's always good to be around them."

As 11-time FA Cup winners, Manchester United will be heading into the match as favourites but Fong is not afraid. He said: "Honestly, I'm quietly confident we can pull off an upset. This season has been the one of underdogs.

"With Leicester's title triumph and us making it to the FA Cup final, I believe that Palace have it in themselves to spring a surprise against a vulnerable United."

Palace fans interested in catching the FA Cup final live with fellow Eagles supporters can head to Hannibal at Robertson Quay while United fans may join the official fan club at The Bank Bar + Bistro at One Shenton.

Yogaraj Panditurai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2016, with the headline 'Once-in-a-lifetime chance for a Palace fan'. Print Edition | Subscribe