What right does a club football team have to field its reserves against another nation's team and still get the support of the host country's fans? Money.
For those few minutes, the air was electrified. As the crowd stood up, then down, in a wave-like fashion, nothing, not even the empty stands in between, could stop the 30, 000 strong bring live to the drab grey dame. Not once, but twice, the crowd moved in unison, each of them eagerly awaiting their turn to stand up tall, motivated by nothing more than the desire to be one with the fan next to them.
This is what they called the Kallang Wave, and it returned so spontaneously tonight, for those precious few minutes, before a nation’s hopes were dashed as quickly as it took for this rare return of the wave to make me lose myself in the electrifying atmosphere.
This was the moment one lives for and also the only reason I keep going back to watch a Singapore soccer match, to capture and savour every moment like this because it tells me this place has a heart, a soul, if only we can keep it alive for longer.
Just last week, a friend called and offered me tickets to watch Singapore play Bahrain because he could not think of any other Singapore fan than me. I thought it was such a strange remark, but the more I thought about it, I realised it was not so much the soccer that kept me going back, but really this grand idea of nationhood and how it manifested through its people. The Singapore soccer-watching crowd is strange, diverse and mostly pessimistic. There are the folks who attribute every outcome to a bookie’s decision, some dissect the players by race, others always think of what they players should have done… but come that genuine moment, whether it is watching the team take the lead or claw back a goal, every one unites and all is forgiven that very moment.
As my friend said, its these moments where “I can feel my hair stand.” And for the record, we lost 3-7 to Uzbekistan.