Hariss Harun, Safuwan Baharudin and Baihakki Khaizan are among the Singapore national footballers inspired by Joseph Schooling's swimming feats at the 2016 OIympic Games.
Schooling won the nation's first ever gold medal by upsetting 23-time Olympic champion Michael Phelps in the final of the 100 metres butterfly on Saturday (Singapore time).
Former LionsXII teammates Hariss and Safuwan discussed Schooling's success on Saturday evening before they faced off in the Malaysia Super League (MSL). Hariss was on the winning side as Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) defeated Safuwan's PDRM FA 4-1 at Larkin Stadium.
"Hariss and I spoke about Joseph and his gold medal achievement and how his success is now going to be a motivation for all other youth, coming from different sports in Singapore," Safuwan told ESPN FC. "We spoke about Joseph being alone for some time [training in the United States] so to actually be there, as an Olympic champion at the age of 21, is amazing."
Schooling arrived back in Singapore early on Monday morning to a hero's reception at Changi Airport and faces a packed schedule of public appearances and civic receptions in his honour.
Singapore sports fans celebrated when the nation claimed its fourth AFF Suzuki Cup crown by winning the final on home soil in 2012 -- Safuwan, Hariss and Baihakki were all on the winning team -- but this has taken national excitement levels to a new high.
How amazing that sports could actually bring the nation, the people from every race and culture together as one.. Thank you @josephschooling for giving us this moment to smile in our daily lives even if it's for a minute.. Congratulations to you hero, we're truly proud of you.. Keep going mate.. ������������ #rio2016 #goldmedal #singapore #swimming #butterfly #100m #finals #josephschooling
A photo posted by Baihakki Khaizan (@baihakki06) on
Schooling defeated American Phelps and South African Chad le Clos as he set a new Olympic record of 50.39s.
Veteran Singapore defender Baihakki Khaizan congratulated Schooling on his Instagram page, thanking the University of Texas-based swimmer "for giving us this moment to smile in our daily lives, even if it's for a minute... congratulations to you hero, we're truly proud of you." Baihakki, like Hariss and Safuwan, plays his club football in Malaysia.
"I think it's wonderful that Schooling can make history like that for the very first time... it's a dream come true," Safuwan said. "Dedication, hard work and sacrifices took Joseph to where he is now.
"For him, it was a long and hard journey and no-one gave him a single thing. It was down to hard work, attitude and self-discipline."
He added that Schooling's parents and family helped him achieve success, just like when Safuwan became Singapore's first export to the Australian A-League last year. Safuwan joined Melbourne City, on loan from LionsXII, after impressing in a trial.
"It's never easy to try to do something for the first time," Safuwan said. "I made history for Singapore to be the first player to play in A-League, and I know how it feels.
"But what Schooling has done has brought the whole nation together to witness success and help all people in Singapore believe that dreams can come true."
Safuwan added that Schooling's success gives Singapore's footballers extra motivation to aim for their record-breaking fifth Southeast Asian title when the AFF Suzuki Cup kicks off on Nov. 19 in Philippines and Myanmar.