2012 REVIEW


The 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup, the most-followed and best-supported tournament in the ASEAN region, lived up to its reputation for producing epic encounters, underlining the standing of established stars, unearthing new talent and taking over the lives of sports fans for a month.

The leading eight national teams in ASEAN showcased their skills in 18 drama-filled games that featured 48 goals, ranging from tap-ins to bullet headers.

Fans in their hundreds of thousands followed the action at the stadia, with full-house crowds at the cavernous Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur and the compact Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore alike, while millions more tuned into live television broadcasts of every match and read comprehensive coverage in newspapers and websites.

One of thousands of articles about the AFF Suzuki Cup was penned by Darren Goon for www.asianfootballfeast.com under the headline "Why the AFF Suzuki Cup matters".

He wrote, in part: "The AFF Suzuki Cup also provides fans with an opportunity to observe and appreciate the region's finest footballers. Not many outside their native countries would have heard of players like Singapore's Shaiful Esah or Thailand's Theerathon Bunmathan before the tournament, but what a difference a month can make.

"... the events and festivities of the past month might not have made much of an impact on the world stage, but the AFF Suzuki Cup's influence on its own region has gone from strength to strength. If you weren't a fan before, you probably are now."

Singapore were crowned kings of ASEAN football for a record fourth time - their other triumphs came in 1998, 2004 and 2007 - thanks to a 3-2 aggregate victory over Thailand in the thrilling two-legged final and they were given a royal reception on their return to the Lion City.

Underscoring the importance of the AFF Suzuki Cup to competing nations, the Lions were feted as they made their way aboard an open-top bus from the airport to Jalan Besar Stadium through the city's main shopping thoroughfare, Orchard Road.

The ticker tape welcome was followed a couple of weeks later by an official reception for outgoing coach Radojko Avramovic and his team hosted by President Tony Tan Keng Yam at his official residence, the Istana.

He greeted the players and presented tokens of appreciation to Avramovic and captain Shahril Ishak.

The AFF Suzuki Cup was on display at the Istana and Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information Lawrence Wong and Football Association of Singapore (FAS) President Zainudin Nordin were also present to congratulate the players and coaching staff.

Shahril had double cause for celebration as he received the Suzuki Most Valuable Player (MVP) award before he lifted aloft the trophy as winning captain in Bangkok.

He was the top scorer during the group stage when he bagged four crucial goals which helped the Lions to top Group B and advance to the semi-finals and his overall contribution drew praise from coach Avramovic.

"I think Shahril was a big part of this team," said Avramovic, who was also the winning coach in 2004 and 2007. "With his knowledge, his technique and contribution as captain, I think he has done a great job.

"He was unlucky in some ways because I sacrificed him in the last two games and asked him to help in the midfield. As captain, he did his part."

For Shahril himself, winning the MVP award was really a bonus next to the achievement of becoming the third Singapore captain after Nazri Nasir (1998) and Aide Iskandar (2004 and 2007) to lift the ASEAN Football Championship trophy.

"I really wasn't thinking about the MVP award," said the 28-year-old, who was also part of the victorious Lions squads in 2004 and 2007. "In my mind, I just wanted us to be crowned champions and I wanted to bring the trophy back to our homeland. That was the main thing and getting the MVP is just a big bonus for me.

"It's extra special for me because I'm the team captain and I have to lead the team well. To be the one to lift the trophy this time is an amazing feeling."

"It's been a fantastic time in my career. I got my 100th cap against Laos and now, I have been able to lift the AFF Suzuki Cup trophy."

Thailand striker Teerasil Dangda was top scorer in the AFF Suzuki Cup with five goals and his name was added to an illustrious roll of honour that includes Malaysia's Safee Sali (five goals in the 2010 tournament) and Bambang Pamungkas of Indonesia (eight goals in 2002).


#AFFSuzukiCup

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