The New Paper
As Tampines prepare to take on Harimau Muda in their most important match of the season tomorrow, their fans are also prepping themselves for the huge clash.
Win, and the Stags will retain their league title. Lose or draw, and it will all depend on what DPMM do in Brunei against Balestier Khalsa.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Tampines die-hard fan Haikel Mohd, a 26-year-old student, said: "I'll definitely be there at Jalan Besar for Friday's game.
"I have class that day, but I've already decided I'm going to skip it. It's not every day your team are playing in a title-decider."
The Stags have continued to boast a healthy turnout at home games this season, even after they made the switch from Tampines to Clementi in February due to redevelopment around their former stadium.
Haikel, who stays in Tampines, admits that travelling all the way to the west has been a challenge, but it has not stopped him from making the trek.
"I grew up watching the team, taking part in their football clinics as a kid, and they're special to me," he explained.
"Plus, I feel that now, more than ever, the S-League needs all the support it can get. So I turn up for games whenever I can."
Passionate fan support is not the exclusive privilege of title-chasing teams like Tampines.
Week in, week out, the likes of the Hougang Hools, The Black Sheep (Woodlands Wellington), The Eagles Ultras (Geylang United) and the Courts Young Lions' fan club will be at various stadiums, excitedly willing their favourites on.
Never mind the fact that they back four of the six sides at the bottom of the 13-team S-League.
The faithful don't number in the thousands or hundreds, and in some cases, the group is made up of 10 to 30 members.
But, you can bet there will always be pockets of faithful fans at various S-League matches who make it a point to show up for every week's matches.
Cheetah fan Ernest Lim, 37, has not missed a single home game at the Hougang Stadium, where he sells scarves and flags on a voluntary basis.
Said Lim: "I went to the first game of the 2011 season with a friend. We beat Woodlands 1-0 and the atmosphere was great. The Hools sang for the entire 90 minutes and I was hooked.
"I had not been to an S-League game before that. I was more of an armchair fan who watched televised matches.
"I thought the league was doing okay. Then I started to realise that the support was declining.
"I wanted to enjoy the football atmosphere more and as I was about to move to Sengkang around that time, so I decided to follow Hougang United. "Give your local team a chance," he added.
"The football is better than you think and every new fan will go a long way in helping revive Singapore football and the S-League."
Look harder at the Hools and ang moh Chris Harvey will stick out.
The 54-year-old engineer comes from Torquay, England, but has been living in Singapore for the past 20 years.
Not only does he travel from Yishun to attend the team's matches, he is also present at youth games as well as Prime League matches, and volunteers to take pictures to be posted on the Internet as well.
"We have got to reach out to everyone associated with the club," he said. "Most of the boys who play for our Under-14s and Under-16s come from Seng Kang Secondary School, and do you know the grandstand was packed with genuine supporters from the school when they played a match against Hong Kah Secondary School?
"My hope for the club is to grow the level of support, in particular, the family-oriented typed of support."
Like Lim, Geylang fan Muhd Firdaus felt he had to do something in the light of waning support, so he helped form the Eagles Ultras with a bunch of like-minded buddies.
The 26-year-old said: "I happened to watch a game at Bedok Stadium last year and I was shocked there was hardly anyone there.
"About 10 years ago, Bedok was always full and people had to queue to buy tickets.
"I wanted to do something for the fans and the players, create some sort of atmosphere."
Creating an "atmosphere" is what Hussain Razzak does at every Woodlands Wellington game.
The 49-year-old has been a Rams faithful since 1998, when he moved to Woodlands.
Boasting a voice like a loudhailer, Hussain can be heard at every Woodlands game, home or away, leading the team's group of fans in chants, songs and banter.
"I enjoy it very much. It helps me reduce stress, keeps me alive and kicking," he said.
"I've been involved in football in the north since the days of (now-defunct) Gilbraltar Crescent, so I've carried that on until now.
"Okay, I might be very loud, and maybe even vulgar at times during games, but after that I'm normal.
"Anyway, I think we need that at games... loud, colourful characters."
Being quiet is definitely something the Lee family cannot be accused of.
A fixture at every Young Lions home game at Jalan Besar Stadium, Sunny Lee and his family of six are there with like-minded families.
There are less foul-mouth tirades, and more heartfelt encouragement from their seats.
Said 57-year-old Lee: "We were supporting Tanjong Pagar United from their first S-League season as Tiong Bahru United in 1996 until they withdrew after the 2004 season. Then we started following Young Lions because we wanted to help motivate the promising young local players.
"It is unthinkable that they should play without any fans watching.
"So all six of us, my wife Yana and I, our three sons Syafiq, Taufiq and Moris and daughter Crystal Adriana, have been there for every home game.
"It is not cheap because there are six of us and we also go for LionsXII and national team games.
"But we make it a point to follow the teams as they groom the future of Singapore football.
"If Singaporeans don't support local football and the S-League, who will?" (SOURCE)