* Winning the FA Cup for the first time ever is best birthday present for Fandi Ahmad who turns 53 on Friday
* Mother Semiah Ismail was in the stands to cheer Lions XII and son
* ‘Everyone played a role in our success’ – Fandi
* ‘No words can describe the joy of winning the (FA) Cup for the first time ever’ – Fandi
The Singapore fans and supporters were totally outnumbered at the stands – only 6.000 – compared to the more than 70,000 from Kelantan – but among the Singaporeans was one person who was an outright inspiration to Lions XII head coach Fandi Ahmad.
She was none other than his 72-year-old mother Semiah Ismail who made the trip all the way from Singapore by bus to the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil – to lend morale support to Singapore’s famous footballing son who wrote himself into history as the first coach to take the take the FA Cup out of Malaysia since the inception of the tournament in 1990.
And in the process, the Lions also wrote football history as the first foreign team to win the FA Cup.
“No words can describe the joy of winning the (FA) Cup. Everyone played a part in the success but without doubt my mother’s presence in the stands inspired me,” said Fandi who dedicated the Cup to his late father Ahmad Wartam.
Ahmad was a former Singapore national goalkeeper who passed away in November last year.
Fandi’s mother and his sister made their way to the Singapore bench after the final and there were hugs and kisses for Fandi who revealed that “deep in my heart I had confidence that we could win the Cup.”
This despite preferring the underdogs tag against the Red Warriors – seasoned and experienced – having won the FA Cup twice, in 2012 and 2013.
“We were disciplined. We played according to our match plans, to go for an early goal to rattle Kelantan. It worked. I am proud to of my players, they took their chances well.
“They kept to our game plan. Our fitness and speed also played a part in our success,” added Fandi, whose son Irfan is a key player in the 28th SEA Games football team.
Although he was not in the Lions XII team, there were four other SEA Games trainees in Fandi’s team.
And two of them won the FA Cup for the Lions with substitute Sahil Suhaimi coming off the bench for Khairul Amri Kamal in the 60th minute to score a brace.
He scored his first on 81 minutes and ten minutes later got his second via a penalty after Kelantan’s national defender Amiridzwan Taj Tajuddin felled him inside the box. Earlier another SEA Games trainee Faris Ramli opened the scoring for the Lions in the seventh minute.
The other SEA Games trainees from Lions XII released by the FA of Singapore (FAS) for the FA Cup final were Christopher van Huizen and Zakir Samsuddin.
When asked what did his mother tell him after winning the Cup, quick came Fandi’s reply, “I am proud of you son” amidst the hugs and kisses.
Fandi’s name is on everyone’s lips in Singapore and probably Malaysia too.
And in less than two weeks Fandi’s name will be ringing again as he is hotly tipped to light up the 28th SEA Games cauldron together with his son Irfan.
Singapore will play host to the biennial games from June 5-16 and Singapore are bidding to win the elusive football gold medal – often dubbed the “Mother of All Golds” – after winning the bronze medal at the last Games in Myanmar.