News Singapore Premier League • February 12, 2014

Balestier Khalsa Gunning for S.League Title


Written by: Kenneth Ho

Balestier Khalsa Chairman Mr S Thavaneson has set winning the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League 2014 season as a target for his new coach Marko Kraljevic.

Prior to recent years, the Tigers were never considered title contenders. But that has changed given Balester’s impressive performance over the last three years, especially in the 2013 season where they won the StarHub League Cup and finished fourth in the league.

“2013 was a reasonably good year for Balestier, and as always we hope we work towards improving our performance on the field,” Mr Thavaneson said in a press conference to unveil its 2014 squad and marquee signing on Tuesday at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

“But more than that, our aim is to increase spectator interest in the game and in the league.”

“I think we have not held back anything, and are not going to beat around the bush. I think we will challenge for the title and I would reckon Home United would be the hardest opponents together with Tampines.

“But that doesn’t mean we should discount any other teams in the league because when you lose points to the other teams or so called weaker teams’ – it puts you in a poor position to challenge for the title.”

Having targeted the league title, Mr Thavaneson has brought in the club’s first marquee signing, former Croatian under-21 international Goran Ljubojevic and made it clear that the signing was made only after careful considerations, despite having alternate options which included a Polish player who had plied his trade in the German Bundesliga.

“We were quite clear about this in December that we wanted to bring in a marquee player and through our contacts, several names were put forward to us,” Mr Thavaneson explained.

“Some of these players wanted to come based on their reputation. But we are not in the position to invest a substantial amount of money without seeing the product.

“Past glories past performances count to some extent but at the end of the day if we are going to sign a marquee player it will be somebody who we have seen and somebody who we are confident will be able to deliver.

“We have done our homework, and I think we are going to put a performance that will excite fans, the media and general public.”

Despite the lofty target set by his Chairman, Kraljevic felt that there was no pressure on him and that his team were capable of achieving more after last year’s fourth place finish.

“A few more guys joined us and I think we are able to challenge anyone in S.League,” the former S.League player declared, “I am not getting any pressure, I sleep very nicely.”

Kraljevic was pleased with Ljubojevic’s signing,  with the striker having featured at various European clubs such as Genk and Dinamo Zagreb and asserted that the Croation has to score the goals expected of him for the club to do well.

“He is the man who can do his job in the 18 yards box, to be in the box we need to be attacking and that is where we can use him,” Kraljevic continued, “We pay him much you know so we have to use him.”

While Ljubojevic admitted there was pressure on him to perform to expectations, the 30-year-old refused to set himself a target for the season besides helping Balestier to glory.

“For me it would be a big burden,” Ljubojevic said of the responsibilities placed on him.

“I hope can do good this season I don’t have any goals for how much goals I would like to score, and all I hope is for us to play good football and taking points in the first few games.”


Squad List

Goalkeepers: Zarariah Nerani, Zaiful Nizam

Defenders: Yusiskandar Yusop, Lotinac Emir, Paul Cunningham, Jaslee Hatta, Syed Thana, Ahmad Syahir, Jonathan Xu Weihua, Nurullah Hussein, Fariss Haqiel

Midfielders: Sofiyan Hamid, Tajeli Salamat, Ruhaizad Ismail, Ridwan Jamil, Park Kang Jin, Poh Yi Feng,

Forwards: Goran Ljubojevic, Kim Minho, Hanafi Akbar, Pay Zhen Hao Randy, Zulkiffli Hassim