Suzuki Cup: Warm reception for Lions after controversial semi-final defeat

The team was welcomed to the pitch at Jalan Besar Stadium by a guard of honour formed by Mr Edwin Tong and members of the FAS council. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong hosted the national football team at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Tuesday (Dec 28) to recognise the team's efforts at the AFF Suzuki Cup.

They were the first players to reach the semi-final of the biennial regional tournament since 2012 - when they last won it - but were eliminated after a controversy-riddled semi-final second leg tie with Indonesia on Dec 25.

The team lost 5-3 on aggregate, having had three players sent off and a penalty denied, in addition to other contentious or inconsistent refereeing decisions.

Most of the players, including defender Shakir Hamzah who is recuperating from a serious knee injury and needed the aid of crutches to walk, attended the reception, as did the team's coaching and backroom staff.

They were welcomed to the pitch by a guard of honour formed by Mr Tong and members of the FAS council.

A handful of members of fan groups were also invited to the reception.

In his address, Mr Tong thanked the team for inspiring a whole new generation of Singapore football fans by showing them the "power of possible".

"You have left a mark not just on the minds and heats of football fans, but of the average Singaporean," he said.

"Sports can do this like no other… You can't teach this. You can only see and experience this, and all of you have given us a lesson on what it means to play for each other… and to have team spirit."

He presented head coach Tatsuma Yoshida - who barely two hours later announced he would leave his post for personal reasons - and team skipper Hariss Harun with a national team jersey with names of the entire Suzuki Cup squad printed on it.

Mr Tong said the jersey marked a tournament that Singapore football will one day look back on as being pivotal to future successes.

Addressing the team and staff, FAS president Lim Kia Tong added: "I am immensely proud of you.

"Thank you for capping off (the) year by ushering in joy and hope not only for the next year but for years ahead."

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