July 14, 2023
SINGAPORE – A must-win tie against football powerhouses Brazil may seem a daunting task, but Singapore’s Amraan Gani and Syakir “Kun” Abdul Rauf pulled it off at the FIFAe Nations Cup on Wednesday.
They beat the defending champions 2-1 in their last Group C match at the tournament in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to secure a historic place in the round of 16 against Group A winners Argentina.
On Thursday night, the Singaporeans bowed out against defensively solid Argentina after losing 1-0 in the first leg and drawing 0-0 in the second. They will take home US$20,000 (S$26,500) for their efforts.
But the team can take pride in reaching the knockout stage for the first time, which prompted Amraan to say: “It was a very proud moment for us, especially since it’s the first time we made it this far and to put Singapore on the map.
“It is an amazing feeling and achievement for our country.”
They had also beaten top-ranked Brazil 3-1 earlier, besides wins over Spain and Portugal, and had to beat the South Americans again on Wednesday to advance by finishing fourth in the six-team group, which was topped by Brazil.
Kun said: “I think in the first game, they kind of underestimated us and I think that was their downfall. We wanted it more in the second match because we needed a win to qualify for the next round, we wanted it so much more than them.”
Kun, 27, also credited his chemistry with Amraan, 29, as a key factor of their recent success; the pair, who are both professional e-sports players, have played together for the last three years.
“I think we understand our gameplay and how we play with each other. And we have the teamwork that not many countries have,” said Kun. “ A lot of countries have rotating partners, but we have stuck together for quite a while.”
Singapore, 10th in the FIFAe world rankings, and hosts Saudi (from Group A) are the only Asian teams to reach the round of 16 as India fell just short on goal difference in Group D.
The 24-team tournament has a total prize purse of US$1 million.
Amraan and Kun take a bow 🙇♂️🙇♂️
— FIFAe (@FIFAe) July 12, 2023
The duo also expressed their gratitude to fans back home, after receiving multiple congratulatory messages at 4am Singapore time on Thursday, following their second win over Brazil.
“We appreciate the support so much and it keeps us going, hopefully we can continue to perform at the highest level and make them proud,” said Amraan.
He added that they can learn from their round-of-16 victors Argentina, who were very “organised defensively”.
Kun also hopes that their achievement will inspire players back home to consider the e-sport seriously and have the opportunity to do well.
He said: “Getting out of the groups obviously is a big step for us from last year, hopefully we’ll be able to replicate that performance in future tournaments.
“I also hope the result will also boost (the confidence of) people back home who are playing the game and will look at us, the Singaporeans who did it, so they will be more determined to play.”