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Friday, October 12, 2007


KOTA KINABALU: Drago Mamic is now a wiser man.

The Rhinos’ head coach believes he can turn the Rhinos into a formidable side now knowing what Malaysian football is all about. For the new season, the Croatian insists the Sabah team will not only rely on the foreign players.

“For me – this upcoming season – I want the local players to be strong. I’ll be working more on the locals because last season, I think that was our weakness,” said Drago when met at the Rhinos training scene at the Likas Stadium on Wednesday.

“Last season, I did not know much about the Malaysian League … and I had to start from scratch. But now I think it is only a matter of fine-tuning the team.

“I can also see that there is more quality in the team. Our young players are one year senior (for the new season) and this will be a plus for the team.

“Furthermore, the arrival of the new players would also be a big plus for the team,” said Drago.

Drago was impressed with the new players, including ex-Rhino Madzalan Emoi.

The other new faces are Kelantanese Nafuzi Zain of Kedah, Negeri Sembilan-born Wong Sai Kong of Perak and former Reserve League striker Eddie Gapil.

“After watching them in training for two days, I can see the quality in them. I’m also satisfied with our young players. They also showed good quality. I believe they can make progress this season.

Compared to last season, Drago said they are in a better situation now as far as their pre-season preparations are concerned.

“I’m happy with what I have seen. They have done a good job while I was on holiday. They followed the training programme I gave them.

The Rhinos were under assistant coach Khairul Azman Mohd before Drago’s arrival.

“They are an energetic lot,” said Drago while hoping that this attitude will continue for the rest of the season.

While the Rhinos have been having a kind of a light training where focus has been on fitness due to the fasting month, but when they return from the four-day Hari Raya festival break, Drago warned that the players can expect a torrid time.

“Training will be tough … very tough,” he warned.

“It will be tough training for 14 days,” he said, adding that in between they would also play friendly matches against local sides.

Drago also hinted that he is not planning to go on a pre-season tour, saying that doing their training locally would be fine.

“The only big match we are going to play is against DPPM of Brunei. I believe it has been slated for November 3,” said Drago.

But unlike last season where Drago was a little bit lost when asked on whether he could help guide the Rhinos to promotion – which they failed – this time – the no-nonsense Drago said: “This time we want to start our season strongly and end it strongly.”

This is a clear indication that promotion or rather winning silverware will be his top priority.

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