News • February 7, 2016
S.League 2016 Team Preview: Geylang International
Written by: Shawn Lim
On paper, a team that have the attacking trio of Jozef Kaplan, Tatsuro Inui and Hafiz Nor should be winning matches with ease and scoring goals for fun.
But of course, football matches aren’t won on paper and Geylang International found that the hard way in their Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League 2015 campaign where their inconsistent form caused them to finish eighth in the table.
It was also the fourth time in 10 years that the Eagles had finished in that position and they have never finished higher than fifth-place in the league table since 2003, two years after winning their second S.League title.
While the Eagles won the RHB Singapore Cup in 2009 and qualified for the AFC Cup for the next season, they have not tasted glory in this decade and it is a statistic that doesn’t sit well with an illustrious club who used to boast the likes of Fandi Ahmad, David Lee and Kadir Yahaya.
Determined to bring back the glory days, the club have gone through a complete overhaul, from the management to the backroom staff and releasing players like Kaplan, Inui and Hafiz, while only retaining Nor Azli, Yuki Ichikawa, Shawal Anuar and Hairul Syirhan.
New chairman Ben Tang has hired former Eagles’ midfielder Hasrin Jailani to take charge of the team and ensured that Geylang was the first club to snap up a LionsXII player in Faritz Hameed after the team was disbanded.
Since then, Geylang have signed a host of Fartiz’s ex-teammates in Gabriel Quak, Isa Halim, Sahil Suhaimi, Al-Qaasimy Rahman plus talented youngsters like Safirul Sulaiman, Shahfiq Ghani, Syazwan Buhari, Amy Recha and Stanely Ng.
The Eagles are also keen to balance the youthfulness of the squad with experience as they have opened up their cheque books to sign seasoned players like Daniel Bennett, Carlos Delgado and Indra Sahdan.
Delgado will be expected to fill the number 10 role and provide new foreign signing Branko Cubrilo with goalscoring opportunities, together with either Amy, Sahil, Ng or Quak out on the flanks.
In midfield, Nor Azli will link up with Isa, Safirul or new signing Taufiq Ghani to provide protection to the back four of Al-Qaasimy, Fartiz, Ichikawa and Bennett.
While it is still too early to say if the Eagles are capable of mounting a title challenge this season, let alone finish in the top half of the table, this is the most promising squad that Geylang has put together since the Fandi era.
However, if the team can gain a good understanding together early in the season, then the Eagles will be a team to look out for this year.
Coach profile – Hasrin Jailani
What the rookie coach lacks in coaching experience, he makes up for it with both his familiarity with the club and his championship-winning experience after winning the S.League title with Geylang as a player in 2001.
Hasrin has also shown a preference not to play a flat midfield, having mostly gone for a 4-2-1-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation in the friendly games the Eagles have played to date, an indication that he prefers attacking and attractive football.
Whether the new Geylang project fails or succeeds will ultimately boil down to the Hasrin’s decisions and management of the team in his new role.
Star Player – Sahil Suhaimi
The 23-year-old has a point to prove after a less than stellar 2015, where he was unable to lock down a starting spot in LionsXII and was also criticised for lacklustre performances for Singapore at the SEA Games.
The diminutive forward, who can also play on the wings, is hoping that a return to the S.League will help him rediscover his form that made him one of the lethal forwards for the former Courts Young Lions, now known as the Garena Young Lions, in the 2013-14 season.
Sahil has already gotten off the mark, scoring a hat-trick for the Eagles in a pre-season friendly win against Singapore Cricket Club and will hope to continue to his rich vein of form when the season starts.
Geylang International 2016 S.League squad
Russell Santa Maria
Dhukhilan s/o Jeevamani
Al Qaasimy Rahman
Sharif Abdul Samat
Nor Azli Yusoff