Singapore's press yesterday heaped praise on the city-state's foreign-born footballers following their 6-4 aggregate win over Malaysia in the Asian World Cup 2014 qualifiers.
"Born in China, 100% S'porean" said local tabloid the New Paper, with the words juxtaposed to a photograph of a euphoric Shi Jiayi, the China-born midfielder who scored the equalising goal in Thursday's 1-1 draw.
The picture's background featured banners unfurled by Malaysian fans with the messages "100% Malaysians, NO FOREIGNERS" and "100% PURE MALAYSIAN," highlighting pre-match sneers of Singapore's over-reliance on its naturalised players.
Singapore drew 1-1 with Malaysia on Thursday in the second leg of their round two Asian World Cup qualifiers.
This ensured the city-state's progression after a 5-3 win in the first leg in Singapore.
But the euphoria was tempered by criticism from many Singaporeans that all six goals scored over the two legs came from naturalised players Aleksandar Duric and Fahrudin Mustafic who were born in Yugoslavia, as well as China-born Shi Jiayi and Qiu Li.
Singapore's coach, Raddy Avramovich is Serbian.
The criticism reflects a general sentiment against the influx of foreign workers into the wealthy island-state, which Singaporeans say has resulted in overcrowding and loss of jobs for locals.
In a commentary entitled "Pride of Singapore, no doubt about it", the New Paper's sports editor said the foreign-born football players displayed their loyalty and affection for the city-state on and off the pitch.
"Enough of this talk," S. Murali wrote, apparently referring to criticism over foreign-born players.
"Singapore won the match. Though he was born in China, Shi Jiayi is 100 percent Singaporean," he said.
In the Straits Times, a photograph of the Singapore team celebrating their win dominated the front page, with the picture's focus on naturalised player Daniel Bennet, formerly a Briton, raising his arms in triumph.
The headline next to the photo declared "Lions Tame Tigers" in reference to the teams' respective mascots.