News Singapore Premier League • February 20, 2014
Albirex Niigata (S) Eyeing S.League Title
Written by: Khalis Rifhan
Having missed out on the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League title for the past few seasons, Albirex Niigata (Singapore) have sounded the war horn and declared their intention to challenge for the championship this year.
Albirex have in recent years steadily improved on their league standings, finishing fourth in 2011 and 2012 before claiming third position last year.
While former coach Koichi Sugiyama is known for his patient build-up of play, new coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama has drilled an attacking mindset into the players which was evident during the pre-season friendlies.
Okuyama holds an ‘A’ coaching license from the Japan Football Association and was previously the youth coach for Albirex Niigata (Japan) from 2006 to 2008, before being appointed as head coach for Albirex Japan Ladies team in 2008.The club’s 2014 target was revealed by club Chairman Daisuke Korenaga during their annual pre-season kick-off party at the Jalan Besar Stadium to show their appreciation towards their sponsors and partners .
“We participated in the S.League since 2004 and this will be our 11th season. To repay the support from all (sponsors, and fans), I would like to announce our target for 2014; it’s the S.League title,” expressed Korenaga, as it was met with thunderous cheers and applause from those present at the event.
“Our players are young and the average age is 23 years old and it is the first time that they are traveling out of the country for many of them.
“In Albirex (S), we encourage young Japanese footballers to step up and to get experience here before playing in their home country or else where This overseas experience will be exciting for their future and our country, Japan,” added Korenaga, who also revealed the club new apparel sponsor, Mafro Sports Management.
Also present at the event was Football Association of Singapore Advisor Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee who acknowledged the positive values that Albirex have brought into the local football scene.
“We appreciate what Albirex is doing in Singapore, on and off the pitch too. They have contributed to Singapore’s football and showed professionalism in the way they managed the club,” said Professor Ho
“Most importantly, they are building bridges between the young players from Japan and Singapore. You (players) are ambassador of Japan here.”
Leading the club will be captain Shuhei Hotta who is in his fourth year with the White Swans while Kenjiro Ogino, Shinji Kagawa’s former teammate at J.League outfit Cerezo Osaka, will be their guardian between the sticks.
Several players to look out for in the squad will be sharp shooter Kazuki Sakamoto who extended his stay with the club and new recruits such as Kosuke Matsuda and Keisuke Ota.
Matsuda displayed nifty dribbling feat during pre-season while ex-Nagoya Grampus Under-18 player Keisuke Ota constantly caused headache for the opponents with his marauding runs down the flanks and an eye for the goal from the edge of the box.
Albirex will open the new season against fellow title challengers Brunei DPMM on 22 February at the Jurong East Stadium at 7.30pm.
Albirex Niigata (Singapore) 2014 Squad