Singapore Premier League • February 15, 2022
2022 SPL Club Guide: Balestier Khalsa
15 FEBRUARY 2022 – Ahead of the 2022 AIA Singapore Premier League (SPL) season, we take a look at each of the eight clubs that are participating in the 27th season of the domestic top flight. Today’s focus is on Balestier Khalsa!
Nickname: The Tigers
Stadium: Toa Payoh Stadium
Highest finish: 3rd (1996)
2021 finish: 7th
Chairman: Thavaneson Selvaratnam
Head coach: Akbar Nawas
Captains: Shuhei Hoshino, Ho Wai Loon, Darren Teh
Foreigners: Shuhei Hoshino* (Japan), Ensar Brunčević (Serbia), Ryoya Taniguchi (Japan), Kuraba Kondo (Japan)
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After finishing second-last in 2021, the Tigers will set their sights on doing better this year. To that end, a new man has been installed at the helm – former Tampines Rovers head coach Akbar Nawas replaced Marko Kraljević last October and has swiftly reshaped the team.
Attacking midfielders Ryoya Taniguchi and Kuraba Kondo, who both stood out for Albirex Niigata (S), have been brought in to rejuvenate a side that scored 34 times last season – the third-worst tally behind Geylang International (33) and the Young Lions (26). Taniguchi, 22, arrived in Singapore in 2020 and made 33 league appearances for the White Swans, during which he scored 13 times and made 10 assists. The Kanazawa native had a breakout season in 2021 with nine goals and eight assists as Albirex finished second, which led to him being nominated for the AIA Young Player of the Year and being named in the Team of the Year. Kondo, capped at Under-15 and Under-16 level for Japan, hit eight goals and notched three assists in 16 matches as he impressed during his maiden professional season. The duo join the retained Shuhei Hoshino and Ensar Brunčević to make up the Tigers’ foreign quartet.
Meanwhile, there has been an influx of local faces. Goalkeepers Hairul Syirhan, Rudy Khairullah and Riki Kimura have come in, while experienced defender Delwinder Singh arrived from Tanjong Pagar United. The versatile Darren Teh has also come in to bolster the defence, which has seen long-time stalwarts Fadli Kamis and Ahmad Syahir depart. In the middle, Ammirul Emmran and Asshukrie Wahid are reinforcements and Ignatius Ang has made a comeback to football after sitting out the previous season. Naufal Azman will help to augment the front-line, which will need to plug the gap left by Šime Žužul, who joined Geylang International after banging in 15 goals in 20 matches in 2021.
The effervescent Kristijan Krajček has also moved on and Akbar will need to make his new-look team gel quickly together, along with promising youngsters like Aarish Kumar, Aidil Johari and Puvan Raj, if they have ambitions to crack the top half for the first time since 2015.
Squad (as at time of publication)
Goalkeepers: Hairul Syirhan, Martyn Mun, Riki Kimura^, Rudy Khairullah
Defenders: Keshav Kumar^, Delwinder Singh, Ensar Brunčević, Amer Hakeem, Darren Teh, Aiman Zavyan^
Midfielders: Aarish Kumar^, Ammirul Emmran, Haryish Krishnakumar^, Asshukrie Wahid, Ho Wai Loon, Gareth Low, Aidil Johari^, Ignatius Ang
Forwards: Shuhei Hoshino, Ryoya Taniguchi, Kuraba Kondo, Naufal Azman, Puvan Raj^
*All SPL clubs, excluding Albirex Niigata (S) and Young Lions, are allowed to register up to four foreign players; at least one has to be of an AFC Member Association (Asian) nationality. A maximum of four foreign players can be named or fielded in any one match.
^Indicates Under-23 player (born on or after 1 January 1999) of Singaporean nationality. All SPL clubs, excluding Young Lions, are required to field a minimum of one such player during the entire first half of every match. All clubs, except Albirex Niigata (S) and Young Lions, may also include a maximum of five players from their Centre of Excellence (COE) Under-21 Team, either in the starting line-up or as a substitute, provided it does not contravene any of the other Competition Rules.