Football: Home United ready to step up a gear for crunch AFC Cup tie with North Korean side

April 25 Sports Club players training at Jalan Besar Stadium for tonight's game. Singapore Premier League side Home are aiming to match their 2004 showing, when they reached the last four of the AFC Cup.
April 25 Sports Club players training at Jalan Besar Stadium for tonight's game. Singapore Premier League side Home are aiming to match their 2004 showing, when they reached the last four of the AFC Cup.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Home United have to raise their game to another level if they hope to progress in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup, according to coach Aidil Sharin.

The Protectors are in the last eight of the competition, and play North Korean side April 25 Sports Club in the first leg of an inter-zone play-off semi-final at the Jalan Besar Stadium tonight.

Aidil, who was a player when Home reached the AFC Cup semi-finals in 2004, is confident his players can take on some of the top teams, after triumphing in the Asean zone final two weeks ago.

At the pre-match press conference at the Oasia Hotel Novena yesterday, the 41-year-old said: "The preparation for an AFC Cup game like this is not any different from any other big games my players have played in.

"We know this is another level from games we have played against (Philippine side) Ceres Negros or (Myanmar side) Shan United.

"But they are focused, the unity in the team is getting stronger, and the boys are eager to play the North Korean team."

In 2004, Home - along with Geylang United (now known as Geylang International) - reached the final four of the AFC Cup but were beaten by Syrian opposition in their respective ties.

The run remains the best performance by Singaporean sides in the competition.

In April 25 Sports Club, Home face North Korea's most successful club side with 17 domestic league titles in their trophy cabinet.

According to coach O Yun Son, however, his players are fatigued owing to immigration issues - they were stuck at Changi Airport for three hours.

Speaking through a translator, coach O said: "It is our first time here, so there were some difficulties and problems in immigration and customs, so we feel very tired."

Aidil, however, brushed aside his opponents' "issues" and urged his team to be focused on the task ahead.

"At the end of the day, it's a home game and we must give our best," he said. "I hope the fans enjoyed our last game (a 2-0 win over Ceres) and they will come back and support this team again.

"You can see the difference the support makes to the boys' performance."

Sazali Abdul Aziz


HOME UNITED V APRIL 25

Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 7.20pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2018, with the headline 'Home ready to step up a gear for crunch tie'. Print Edition | Subscribe