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Bacolod City: The 9th of August is always a special day for Singaporeans with the Lion City commemorating its national day.

But this year’s celebrations could have a distinctive football theme should S.League side Home United emerge victorious from Wednesday’s 2017 AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Final, according to star midfielder Faris Ramli.

The Protectors enter the decisive tie with a narrow first leg lead over Filipino club Ceres Negros after goals from Stipe Plazibat and Hariss Harun ensured a 2-1 win on home soil.

However, while there has been much talk of the psychological advantage that hosts Ceres will enjoy – an often-crucial away goal and the backing of a passionate home crowd – Ramli believes that Home United have their own mental boost from the day’s significance.

 

“It’s going to be Singapore National Day, so our team will already have a lot of motivation from this even though we’re playing well,” said the 24-year-old Singapore international.

“Ceres want the title too and they will have a big crowd behind them, but we will try not to think about this. Instead, we will focus on ourselves and what we can do for the team and the country.

“It’s clearly going to be a battle of pride for both teams because we want to win it for our country – especially us, because it’s Singapore National Day.”

Part of the LionsXII side that won the Malaysia Super League in 2013 and the Malaysia FA Cup in 2015, Ramli has been in fine form since joining Home United last year.

The National Football Academy graduate has been on target twice in the 2017 AFC Cup so far as well as tallying four assists and, with 18 chances created from his seven continental matches played, has been often the creative hub for Home United.

Ramli was particularly effective in the first leg tie against Ceres, creating three chances, winning nine duels, and setting up Harun’s match-winner.

“To be honest, I always play 110 percent every game,” he said. “I feel really good this season, but I can do much better.

“I’m really proud of my team [in the first leg]. We showed what we were capable of in that match. I think we can do much better than that.

“Ceres are a strong side and them coming to an away game wasn’t easy and they also gave their all. They got an important away goal but for us, we need to stick together and try to do something in the second leg.

“A draw is a good thing but we come to every game going for a win and that’s what I like about the mindset of this team. We have a good away record in the AFC Cup and in the league, so I feel we can keep the momentum going.

“I know what our team are capable of. I know me and my teammates are up to the challenge.”

Photos: Lagardère Sports