News • January 18, 2016

Kaplan: Joining Cheetahs Is Not A Step Backwards


Written by: Shawn Lim

At a certain point in the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League 2015, Jozef Kaplan sat down and wondered where it all went wrong.

Into his second stint as a Geylang International player and captain, there was no lack of desire on Kaplan’s part whenever he laced up his boots and he replicated the form that saw him finished as the club top scorer in his first stint in 2012.

However, his performances were not matched by his club’s as the Eagles’ leaky defence – Geylang conceded 44 goals and had the second worst defence in the league – meant that they finished eighth in the S.League table after winning only seven games out of 27.

Even though he finished as the one of the club’s top scorers again, Kaplan decided it was time to leave and find a club that matched his ambitions.

“I don’t know, I tried my best. It wasn’t my best ever season, but still I tried my best,” said the 29-year-old.

“I am always looking for team achievement and I definitely was not happy when we finished eighth in the table.

“For me, the first thing is achievement as a team and then I concentrate on my goals. Personal achievements is only extra because I’m always looking for the team to achieve something.”

To everyone’s surprise, the striker chose Hougang United as his next destination.

The Cheetahs had finished as cellar-dwellers last year and had even changed coaches midway through the season.

Kaplan is aware that the Cheetahs are a team that is very much still a work in progress, but denies that joining them is a step backwards for his career.

“At the end of last season, I had a few conversations with the head coach (K.Balagumaran) and with the management,” explained the 1.70m tall player.

“The politics and the direction of what they going to do this season looks interesting and I preferred this direction, so I decided to come here.

“I don’t feel that it’s a step backwards for me because every season is different. In the S.league, one season maybe you finish last, but the next season you fight maybe top three or mid table.

“So a lot of it depends on the luck and how well the team perform.”

A huge reason for Kaplan’s confidence is due to the new players that Balagumaran has brought in as the latter prepares for his first full season in charge of the Cheetahs.

On top of the Slovak, the coach has signed former LionsXII players Nazrul Nazari and Raihan Rahman, plus talented youngsters like Afiq Noor, M.Anumanthan and Iqbal Hussain.

And to cap it off, the club were able to secure the signing of S.League Player of the Year 2015, Fumiya Kogure.

Kaplan is excited at the prospect of playing alongside his new teammates and believes that together, they can challenge for a mid-table or higher position.

“I know most of the players already and I played with some of them at Geylang,” said Kaplan.

“It might be a new team, but we are adapting well with the system that the coach implemented already.

“Pre-season is also going well so far and we are working hard together so that we can gel faster. So, I think all of us should be adapting very fast.

“We want to play good and interesting football for the fans, and I think Hougang will be somewhere mid of the table and higher when the season ends.”