Singapore-Selangor clashes: A rivalry unmatched

Singapore-Selangor clashes: A rivalry unmatched

The cast, over a lengthy period, is obviously very different.

The complexion of the teams over the generations has changed dramatically.

The competition format - after a 17-year hiatus for Singapore - has been tweaked.

The competition's name change from Malaya Cup/Malaysia Cup to Malaysian Super League (leading to the Malaysia Cup) seems cosmetic.

But what remains is the Singapore-Selangor rivalry that is intense, the battle overflowing with passion and sometimes seen as a war of attrition.

So tonight's LionsXII versus Selangor MSL match at the Jalan Besar Stadium, a venue that saw some historic games in the 1950s to the 1970s, is special.

It evokes the minds, tickles the memories and takes those who remember the titanic battles of yesteryear down memory lane.

In fact, the first Malaya Cup final in October 1921 was between Singapore and Selangor, the former winning 2-1 in Kuala Lumpur.

Then they met 14 more times in the final before the competition was renamed Malaysia Cup in 1967.

That was the period when the likes of the mercurial Rahim Omar, maestro Majid Ariff and stylish Quah Kim Swee gave Singaporeans special reasons to turn up to for matches against Selangor, who boasted the fabulous four of Abdul Ghani, Stanley Gabrielle, Edwin Dutton and Arthur Koh.

But, when that era of heroes called it quits and the National Stadium at Kallang surfaced, the Singapore-Selangor rivalries had added impetus and oomph because the regular sight of 55,000 screaming fans was one to behold.

It was a period when stardom was everywhere and superheroes were aplenty.

It was as if every time the ball fell to a player, he was a star.

Star-studded

There were Samad Allapitchay, S Rajagopal, Dollah Kassim, Quah Kim Song, Mohamed Noh and Edmund Wee (to name a few) for Singapore.

On the opposite half of the pitch were Mokhtar Dahari, Soh Chin Aun, Santokh Singh, R Arumugam and Wong Choon Wah. Mokhtar, famously known as "Supermokh", was then to Selangor what Lionel Messi is to Barcelona.

Powerfully built, he easily beat defenders with his body feints and speed. And, packing a mean shot with either foot, the muscular Mokhtar was always a standout.

A measure of how destructive Mokhtar could be was seen in the 1976 Malaysia Cup final at the Merdeka Stadium.

Singapore, buoyed by a 6-0 hammering of Pahang in the semi-final first leg at the National Stadium, eased into the final with supreme confidence.

Mokhtar was among Selangor's goal-scorers as his team cruised into the final on a 3-0 aggregate win over Penang.

Those were the days of Malaysia Cup fever and 15,000 Singaporeans made the trip to Kuala Lumpur to watch the final.

However, it turned out to be a disaster as Singapore crashed 3-0, only after being stunned by Mokhtar's opening goal in the 73rd minute.

But tonight, it is more about the present, with a touch of history in that LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad (whose dad Ahmad Wartam kept goal for Singapore in the 1967 final) knows what it is to play on either side of the Causeway, having turned out for Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Pahang.

It is also an opportune time for tough defender Safuwan Baharudin and pacy winger Gabriel Quak to make a name for themselves, as the storied clashes of the past between these two teams have thrown up heroes.

Go for it, LionsXII!


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