Eddy Hirono, Lion City Sailors Supporter: “This is the first time a fan group travelled across Asia”

Recently a tight knit group of devotees from Singapore's super club, Lion City Sailors, showed their commitment to their team by flying over to Hong Kong to watch Kitchee take on the 'Sailors'.

A football fan’s support for their team often knows no bounds, and some supporters literally follow their team to the ends of the earth in order to show their loyalty and devotion.

Some devotees will travel over land, air and sea to cheer on their favourite team and often have to make emotional, financial and physical sacrifices as they rack up hundreds of thousands of miles . Certain fans have turned visiting global football stadiums into a hobby and as such, groundhopping, is a new sporting phenomenon.

Conversely, it is no mean feat to travel and circumnavigate the Asia-pacific as an away supporter. Recently a tight knit group of fans from Singapore’s super club, Lion City Sailors, showed their commitment to their team by flying over to Hong Kong to watch Kitchee take on the ‘Sailors’ in the Asian Champions League.  

Lion City Sailors (formerly Home United) are Singapore’s super club who are aiming for regional dominance. After tech billionaire Forrest Li took over the club, Lion City Sailors have revolutionized the Singapore game both on and off the pitch football.

Forrest Li (Left) – Owner of Lion City Sailors – Photo: Lion City Sailors Facebook Page

As a sign of their ambitions, Lion City Sailors opened a new state of the art training facility in July 2022 which is estimated to have cost in excess of S$10 million. The aim of ground-breaking complex, which includes two 11-a-side pitches, three seven-a-side fields, modern gym, physiotherapy facilities, video analysis rooms, is to be a centre of excellence where generations of players can evolve, develop and help take Singaporean football to the next level.

The opening of the New Training Facility – Photo from Lion City Sailors Website

The Lion City Sailors fans who flew to Hong Kong were rewarded for their loyalty with a comprehensive win in Hong Kong. There is / was a great sense of community and friendship among the Lion City Sailors who made the journey, proving that football is more than just a game. 

In an exclusive interview, Eddy Hirono, Lion City Sailors Fan and the creative drive behind SailorFanTalk | LCS Content, had a quick chat with on the evolution of Lion City Sailor’s fandom.

Lion City Sailors Fans at Hong Kong Stadium – Photo from Lion City Sailors Facebook Page

How was attending a match at Hong Kong stadium and the overall away match day experience in HK? 

“Attending a match at Hong Kong Stadium was nice. I’ve seen this stadium before in the Rugby 7s and it’s nice to be able to see it in person. Being part of the away support is always tough because numerically you are outnumbered. The Kitchee fans were loud!

A big shout out to the stadium staff who were friendly, professional and went beyond the call of duty. Away fans have a drinks stall to purchase alcohol and soft drinks, but do not have any food options. The food options are all in the home stands. 

As such, whenever we needed to get food, the stadium staff would need to escort us there to buy food to ensure the safety of everyone involved. The stadium staff did it without complaints, and I thought that was nice. 

The travelling fans even had a chat with the security staff after the game because we noticed 1 or 2 of them bopping along to our chants and drum beats during the game. The interview is up on Youtube if you wanna check it out!”

Is there a group of LCS fans  who travel and follow Lion City Sailors across Asia? How did you all meet? Does the sense of community go beyond football? 

“This is the first time we’ve had a group of fans traveling across Asia. It’s our first away game unless you count the centralized tournament in Buriram last year. That one was in a period where travel was heavily impacted by Covid-19. 

In fact, when I traveled up to watch the team, I had to do a short quarantine period in a Bangkok hotel first, before my Covid-19 test results were released! So it’s pretty understandable that no one really decided to fly up. 

This time’s different though! Some fans flew up on their own expense, while 10 lucky souls won a contest organized by the club to come up as well. They had their hotel and airfare expenses covered, and that really contributed to the atmosphere. 

How did we meet? We met at Lion City Sailors games. Usually we sit around the same area every home game, so those who are a bit louder would gravitate towards us. This time, the beauty of the contest is that the contest-winners, who are not all the same people who sit in front and drum and cheer, got to know us a bit better, and hopefully moving forward, will form an extended part of the Crew. 

Does the sense of community go beyond football? For sure. Lion City Sailors fans have regular karaoke sessions! We also care about what happens in each others’ lives, we celebrate each others’ birthdays and significant milestones. 

In fact, one of the Crew didn’t win the contest but we really wanted him to fly up with us, so we all chipped in and paid for his airfare.”

Lion City Sailors Fans Contributed to the Atmosphere at HK Stadium Photo from Lion City Sailors Facebook Page

How has fan culture developed in Singapore over the past few years? Are fans more organized in terms of supporting and following the Singapore premier league?

“Fan culture in Singapore is a tough topic. I think in general, there are fewer fans than you’d hope for in the domestic game. I wouldn’t say the fans are very organized. There is no structure, no elections to decide who is the chairman, vice-chair, treasurer etc. Fans just turn up on matchday, sit together, chant together and have fun!”

Why do you support Lion City Sailors? 

“I support LCS because I was a fan of Home United in the past. Before privatization, that was what the club was known as (Home United). I’ve continued to support the club because I am proud of their efforts to lift the standards of the domestic game. 

You can see it in the way they do their social media, the way they run training in a spanking new training facility, the way we go out and hire not just big names, but players who can contribute to this spirit of excellence. I feel this spirit resonates with me, and I am proud to be a Lion City Sailors fan!”

Lion City Sailors are a team on the rise and will continue to make waves across Asian football as they continue to evolve on and off the field. Expect devoted LCS fans to continue to follow them through thick and thin….. over air, land and sea.

Football? For some, it is a love supreme……..

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