Voices From The Ground: Asian Cup Qualifier; Singapore versus Chinese Taipei – A Dream or a Nightmare?

Chinese Taipei fan Mr Zhang is in the front row, 2nd from the right.
Photo: Chris Peng

Chris Peng
The Unofficial S.League Podcast

Voices From The Ground: Last month, after an inspired defensive display, the unfancied Singapore team managed to take a point off Bahrain. It was widely seen as a coup as home side Bahrain was odds on favorites to emerge with a win. 

The hype train was subsequently in full steam. Optimists were getting fired up, believing that a win against Chinese Taipei was a forgone conclusion. After all, we were playing at home against a country which was perceived to be weaker than us. They were also lower in the international rankings. What could possibly go wrong? 

Alas, a country’s national team can only be as strong as her domestic league. Singapore may have reaped the benefits of having a string of core players train and play day in day out for Home United, but when the rest of the league isn’t as competitive as it should be, a strong Home United / Singapore spine just isn’t enough. 

On paper, the likes of Hassan Sunny, Irfan Fandi, Izzdin Shafiq, Hariss Harun, Faris Ramli and Khairul Nizam seem to be good enough to fire our island nation to a routine victory against Chinese Taipei, a country way more interested in baseball and basketball. After all, Home United did do Singapore proud on the regional stage. They are just two wins away from being crowned as the AFC ASEAN Zonal Champions. 

Unfortunately for us, a spirited Taiwanese side with players plying their trade in the likes of China, Thailand and Belgium had a thing or two to say.

The match was even, Singapore had the better first half, scoring as early as the 5th minute as captain Hariss Harun delivered a pinpoint header which left the opposing keeper no chance at all. The Taiwanese began to find their stride subsequently, they got used to the pace of the game and the pitch. They were able to launch attacks of their own and Chen Tsan-Yuan, a defender by trade, silenced the Lions faithful when he placed a half volley beyond the despairing dive of Lions custodian Hassan Sunny. The failure of our Lions in clearing the free kick prior to the goal proved to be fatal.

In the second half, midfielder Chen Chao-an broke our hearts when he tapped the ball into an empty net off a fluid cross. At that moment, the skies cried as well. The heavy downpour mirrored the emotions in most Singaporean hearts. 

Perhaps we knew that it was not destined to be our day. Even sending Irfan Fandi upfront to his old position and punting uninspired long balls to Safuwan, Khairul Nizam and him yielded nothing for us. Singapore was done for the day.

Voices from the Stands

Mr Zhang Is a Taiwanese fan and here are his thoughts before, during and after the match.


Chris ( C ): Are you guys based in Singapore or here on a trip?

Mr Zhang ( Z ): Some of us are studying or working here, as for me and my friends, we have just arrived today.

C: You flew in specially for the match? What loyalty!

Z: Indeed.

C: So how long have you supported your country?

Z: More than ten years!

C: Taiwan is more of a baseball / basketball nation, football isn’t that popular in your country, isn’t it?

Z: Due to our qualification campaigns for the World Cup and Asian Cup, some of our players plying their trade in China and Thailand have helped to strengthen our team. Hence, the interest (in football) has been increasing among the fans as well.

C: Do you think that the lack of a professional league hinders Taiwanese football?

Z: ( Nods in agreement )

C: So who are the Taiwanese players we should look out for?

Z: ( Looking serious ) Are you scouting us?

C: ( Flustered ): No no! We are a neutral organization, we have nothing to do with the Football Association of Singapore!

Z: ( Looks relieved and friendlier): Not sure about his number, but you can look out for 
(Chen) Tsan-Yuan, Wen Chih-Hao and, Chen Po-Liang.

C: Is there a reason you would pick out these as your key players?

Z: They are playing in China!

C: So what would be a good score line for you?

Z: ( Laughs heartily) Of course a Taiwanese victory! However, I am aware that Singapore has a good defense, it was breached only 5 times in 5 games, in contrast, my side conceded 10 goals in 5 games. We always had problems with our defense. Chen Tsan-Yuan returned and he helps a lot!

C: I understand that the Taiwanese defense is short on experience.

Z: ( Looks frustrated ): Yes, they have speed and endurance in abundance, but not experience. For the last 15 minutes, they are our Achilles heel.

C: It’s a tough group, Singapore and Chinese Taipei are seen as the weaker two sides in our group. This game is of critical importance. Your team lost the first game to Turkmenistan 3-1.

Z: ( Shrugs sadly ), yes, still at zero points.

( Pauses momentarily as the Taiwanese fans cheer fervently while their players start to warm up on pitchside )

C: So how long will you be staying in Singapore?

Z: We are going back tomorrow!

C: ( Shocked ) What? So fast? Air tickets aren’t that cheap, this is devotion!

Z: We have some work-related matters here, so we just made our work timing coincide with the match.

C: Some deliberate arrangements required then, still very devoted! Hopefully the lightning alert will go away soon, we still have an hour before the match starts. It would be terrible if the match is delayed due to weather conditions.

Z: Some fans may not want to turn up. Will the game be delayed?

C: Yes, we have to consider the safety of the players. So what’s a good score for you today?

Z: 1-1 , if I may dream, 2-1 to Chinese Taipei!.

Half Time

C: Hi again! Based on what you saw in the first half, do you think that your team can get a win?

Z: We have a chance to, I stand by 2-1.

C: As you can see, the Singapore team is not invincible, it took their keeper a full stretch to keep out an inevitable goal.

Z: It should have been in! Your team is very threatening on set pieces.

C: Your team is pretty good too! May the best team win!

Full Time

C: Congratulations!

Z: Thanks a lot!

C: Thoughts?

Z: Okay! Just like what I expected! I expected a 1-1 draw but I was hoping for a 2-1 win. In reality it was a very even game, 50-50! Taiwan did very well today, good synergy. Very fit too.

C: Taiwan did do well.

Z: ( Sportingly ): Singapore too! As for us, the players who are playing in Belgium, China and Thailand helped a lot!

C: So, was the trip worth it?

Z and friends: Completely worth it!

C: Congratulations and have a good flight!

Mr Gao is another Taiwanese fan, here are his opinions before and during the match.


Chris ( C ): ( Trying to break the ice but it was awkward ): So why are you here?

Mr Gao ( G ): For Taiwanese football!

C: Do you know Mr Zhang and his friends?

G: No, I came myself, touched down this morning.

C: So how do you find Singapore?

G: It’s very warm and humid.

C: So how do you feel about tonight?

G: Hopefully we can break the zero tonight!

C: Tough group, we are quite evenly matched.

G: Hence we need the point!

C: It depends on how they perform on the pitch, hopefully no one is injured and we can have a fair game.

C: So when are you going home?

G: Tonight.

C: ( Flabbergasted ): You too?

G: I did the same when I watched our team in Thailand and Vietnam.

C: The royalty is admirable.

G: Bought my tickets this few days, it’s expensive, about 12,000 Taiwan Dollars. ( Approximately S$550 )

C: So what’s a good score for you?

G: 1-1, 2-1 if possible.

Half Time

C: Are you satisfied with the first half?

G: We conceded too quickly!

C: Well your team did get the equalizer. 1-1

G: Our attack isn’t that great, despite that. Singapore has a better structure, Taiwan is messier. But we can win via set pieces

C: Are you okay? You look flustered.

G: Too much shouting and cheering.

C: Good luck for the second half!

Serena and Alice, here are their opinions before, during and after the match.


Chris ( C ): So are you girls from Taipei?

Serena and Alice ( SA ): ( Nods enthusiastically ) Yes!

C: So when did you girls arrive?

SA: This morning, and we will go home tomorrow afternoon.

C: Again, almost everyone I’ve spoken to arrived today and are going home tomorrow, really hardcore fans.

S: You can say so, as long as there’s a competition, we will try to make it to the game. I went to Hong Kong last year. Within Taiwan, even if it’s to areas like Kaohsiung, we would go.

A: I wasn’t in Asia last year. It’s my first away game. I will also try my best to watch the team within Taiwan.

C: Soccer isn’t as popular compared to baseball and basketball. What do you think can be done to improve the situation?

S: A professional league is important. We need fans to come forward. Just watching an international game every few months wouldn’t do it. Lots of people will watch a game casually but very few will persist. Referees also will improve if they officiate matches regularly.

C: Singapore has a professional league but it isn’t doing that well. Just look at today’s crowd, plenty of empty seats. So, who should I look out for tonight?

SA: ( In unison ): Xavier Chen Tsan-Yuan! He plays in the Jupiler league in Belgium. He’s of a higher caliber.

( The girls get distracted as the players step out to the pitch, and I know better than to go on. )

Half Time

C: Satisfied with the first half?

S: It’s pretty okay!

C: Overall?

S: Yes, pretty good overall!

A: We conceded so quickly! We barely got started and we were already 1 goal down.

C: So do you think that your team can win in the second half?

S: We said we will get a 2-1!

A: We will score!

C: Who will?

SA: ( Tough question! ) Tsan-Yuan!

C: Good Luck!

Full Time

SA: ( Sees me coming and screams ): 2 goals to 1!

C ( Flustered ): Feeling good huh?

SA: Very much so!

C: Well worth the price to come here?

SA: Extremely so!

C: Went amok when the goal went in right?

SA: We all went mad!

C: Any message for your team?

SA: You guys are fantastic!

C: Congratulations again and have a good trip home!

SA: Thanks!

Chinfa, Marcus, Nicholas and QingWei are Singapore supporters. Here are their opinions before and during the game.


Chris ( C ): Guys, thoughts on the game?

Chinfa ( F ) We will lead 1-0 during half time and win 3-2 or 4-2 at full time!

Nicholas ( N ): 3-1 or 4-0

C: So who are you looking out for tonight? Home United is clearly very important for Singapore. Hassan Sunny, Irfan Fandi, Hariss Harun, Izzdin Shafiq, Faris Ramli and Khairul Nizam are all important players.

F: Faris Ramli is a very important Home United player, he has scored 20-25 goals ( Chris's thoughts at the time: Erm… he hasn’t, not yet for this season. )

QingWei ( Q ): Plazibat!

C: Plazibat is not playing for Singapore!

FMNQ: All the Home United players are important!

C: Other than the HUFC players, who are the other Singaporean players to watch?

F: Safuwan Bahrudin!

N: Daniel Bennett!

Q: Nazrul Nazari!

C: Final guess for the final score?

FMNQ: 3-1! 4-1! 3-2!

Half Time

C: So how’s the first half?

F: After a goal, we defended all the way, I don’t know why! We can score in the S.League but not for country!

N: The referee is no good.

Q: Not giving fouls when he should and giving when he shouldn’t!

N: Foul throws too!

C: Let’s see how the second half goes.

2-1 - a score widely predicted by the travelling Taiwanese fans. They prophecy came true, a dream for them and a nightmare for Singapore. While I am happy for their victory and progress, I can’t help but to feel that it’s a nightmarish night for Singapore. 

Well, the ball is now firmly in Sundram’s court. Come on, Dazzler, show us what the Lions are really capable of.

All copyrights © 2017 are attributed to the respective contributors above.