Faris Ramli is ready to set friendship aside and put one over his long-time friend Evan Dimas when Singapore take on Indonesia in the AFF Suzuki Cup Group B opener on Friday at the National Stadium.
KALLANG, SINGAPORE: The two attacking midfielders met in 2012 as part of Nike’s ‘The Chance’ Academy World Finals. The pair won their respective country competitions and went to the global final in Spain together.
Faris was 20 then while Evan was 17. Both have come a long way and fulfilled their potential as professional footballers, even becoming key men for their countries.
On Friday, that friendship will be replaced by the desire to win, as Singapore and Indonesia open their Group B campaign, which also consists of Timor-Leste, Thailand and Philippines.
Bima Sakti has taken a young squad to Singapore and seems intent on building a team around his deep-lying playmaker Evan.
Faris will likely start as part of a three-man creative midfield alongside Gabriel Quak and Yasir Hanapi. The trio will be tasked to provide the ammunition for 19-year-old striker Ikhsan Fandi.
“This is like a reunion for us (Evan and I) but at the end of the day, it is the flag on our chest that counts,” Faris told FOX Sports Asia.
“I’m putting aside that friendship to go all out for my country. Since our days back in that competition (Nike The Chance Academy), both of us have gone on to accumulate experience at club and international level.
“This Suzuki Cup is the stage where it is time for Evan and myself to prove how far we have come and all I’m thinking of is to win it for my country.”
With the Indonesian tactics relying heavily on Evan linking midfield and attack from his own half, the home team must be wary of giving the 23-year-old too much space and time, some thing Faris is well aware of.
“We have watched the Indonesian games on video and just like any other team, they have their strengths and weaknesses,” the PKNS forward added.
“Evan is one of their key players and he is the one who puts the passes together and brings the ball from defence into attack.
“Stopping him will be part of the game plan but we must capitalise on our own counter-attacking game and hurt them when we get the chance.”
Faris will be hoping Singapore can rise to the occasion as they seek to rebound from a disappointing first-round exit at the previous two editions.