News • February 20, 2017
Youthful Tigers Hoping To Roar Again
Eager to bounce back after a disappointing 2016, Balestier Khalsa have assembled a zestful and young team as captain Zaiful Nizam and head coach Marko Kraljevic look forward to the season ahead.
It was a disappointing 2016 season by their standards as Balestier Khalsa finished second from bottom in the nine-team S.League.
After all, they were the same club which tasted success in cup competitions in consecutive seasons, lifting the League Cup in 2013 and then the Singapore Cup the following year.
Under the tutelage of Head Coach Marko Kraljevic, the Tigers also made the AFC Cup proper both in 2015 and 2016 although they failed to get past the group stages on both occasions.
However, Balestier skipper Zaiful Nizam believes there is every reason to be optimistic for season 2017, for both club and fans alike.
While midfielders Fazli Ayob and Jamil Ali have departed for S.League giants Tampines Rovers, they have been adequately replaced by Hougang United duo Raihan Rahman and Huzaifah Aziz as well as Garena Young Lions starlets Ashrul Syafeeq and Jonathan Tan.
They have also managed to retain the core of local players which include the likes of defender Fadli Kamis, Sheikh Abdul Hadi and veteran Shah Hirul while promoting Zulkhair Mustaffa and A. Renonathan from the Prime League squad.
âWithin this team, we now have a good mixture of youth and experience in the team,â said Zaiful, who is now in his fifth year with the club.
âShah Hirul and I are the more experienced players in the team and we hope to guide and motivate the young team to do well this season.
âI donât want to be aiming too far. I just hope to do well in the cup games again this season and finish in the top half of the table, to show the rest that we have improved and make the other teams afraid of playing us, just like what we used to do.â
Echoing the sentiments of Zaiful, Kraljevic said he was âmotivatedâ to work with this crop of players and hopes to see them raise their game further.
âIt is looking much better this season as we have kept quite a number of local players and have brought in a few other younger boys as well,â the Croatian shared.
âThey work very hard during training and are always seeking to improve. They have the ambition to outdo themselves and hope to be able to represent the nation one day. But most importantly, they must always have a dream, if not it will be difficult.â
It may seem like a long shot but having already lifted the Singapore Cup and League Cup, Zaiful has his eyes set on the biggest prize of them all – the S.League title.
He said: âIâve won the League Cup and the Singapore Cup but I have yet to win the league title. Hence, it will be a good achievement if I can win the league in what is my tenth season in the S.League.
One player hoping to make an impact is youngster Hazzuwan Halim who had a standout 2016 and did enough to earn a contract to extend his stay at the Toa Payoh Stadium.
The 23-year-old, who was unlucky with injuries last term, had netted only once for Balestier but has vowed to improve on his overall play and more importantly, his goal tally for the upcoming campaign.
âI thought it was really beneficial to have received help from the experienced players in the team last season,â he said.
âHowever, I really need to work harder from last season. I want to be a faster and better player than before and give my 100% whenever I play. I scored one goal last season, so Iâm aiming for at least three this season.â
Balestier will begin their new campaign with a visit by Warriors FC to the Toa Payoh Stadium on 28 February. The match will kick-off at 7.30pm.
S.League 2017 fixtures: http://sleague.com/fixtures-results/fixtures/s-league