BY JOASH EE DE SILVA(The Star)
Singapore Lions XII’s seasoned campaigner Safuwan Baharudin wants his team-mates to be mentally prepared to deal with the bumper 100,000-capacity crowd expected for the FA Cup final against Kelantan at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Saturday.
“We must not let the crowd get to us,” warned Safuwan upon the team’s arrival at a leading hotel in Seri Kembangan on Thursday.
The 23-year-old Safuwan, with more than 50 caps for Singapore, said that the players should be prepared for the electrifying atmosphere.
“It’s a big occasion for the young players and they must learn to stay calm. The important thing is not to be intimidated by the fans. Once you lose focus, it will lead to mistakes and it will affect your game,” said Safuwan.
The defensive midfielder returned from a three-month loan at A-League side Melbourne City in April after scoring two goals in six appearances for the club. He was forced to cut short the stint due to injury last month.
Safuwan made his debut for Lions XII in the hotly-disputed FA Cup semi-final return-leg clash against Terengganu at the Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium in Gong Badak last Saturday. Terengganu won 3-2 for a 4-4 aggregate but Lions XII advanced on the away goals rule.
Lions XII coach Fandi Ahmad will take advantage of Safuwan’s vast experience to put the shackles on Kelantan’s attacking trio of Austin Amutu of Nigeria, Erwin Carrillo of Colombia and national striker Mohd Norfarhan Mohd.
Safuwan expects the final to be a close affair.
“I’ve played against Kelantan for the last four years ... I know their strengths and weaknesses. It’ll be 50-50 ... it depends on who wants it more,” he said.