Singapore Premier League • September 30, 2014

Rafi Not Giving Up On Title Chase


Written by: Phoon Jia Hui

The Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League enters its business end of the season, as the title race heats up with teams in the top five of the standings separated by a mere five points going into the final four matches.

Brunei DPMM lead the table with 46 points, followed by Warriors FC, Albirex Niigata (S), and Home United who are tied on 41 with Tampines Rovers one point behind in fifth. Along with sixth-placed Balestier Khalsa (33), they will play each other once in the half-round to determine the eventual champions.

Following Tampines’ goalless draw with Albirex on Wednesday, Stags coach Rafi Ali reckons anything can happen over the course of these four games.

“Okay, I mean it’s very close… Anybody can beat anybody like I said before, it doesn’t matter,” he said.

“We will take it as it comes. This year is like the closest title, it’s not only a two or three horse race but the top six teams are capable of winning [the league].”

Tasked to lead the Stags after the resignation of Salim Moin midway through the season, it will be the first time Rafi is in charge as a coach of a side mounting a title bid and he describes the experience as ‘interesting’.

“I took the team halfway through the season and my main objective was just to get them as a unit together because I know they can play which they have shown,” the ex-international added.

“Maybe we need to be more consistent but I can understand. The international players and some are tired but this is a welcome break for us because my injured players have got time to recover.”

Believing that consistency will be key in deciding the winner, Rafi remains bullish of their chances but wants more from his charges.

“At one point of time, they were saying it [the title race] was finished and that DPMM would be champions,” he said.

“We fought back and this is a good sign. If we can do that once, why not do it twice? It’s a touch and go thing this season, but I think the team which is most consistent throughout these final few games and makes the least mistakes, will be champions.

“We’ve played all the top teams and beat Brunei twice, I think the only team to have done so this season. We need to be more careful and cut out on these mistakes and be more precise and focus on the game.”