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Thursday, November 05, 2015

Azraai aims to form team by Dec

By FRANCIS XAVIER Francis@newsabahtimes.com.my

 KOTA KINABALU: Mohd Azraai Khor Abdullah is taking a cautious approach in forming the State Premier League squad for the new season. Looking at how things are developing within the team right now, the newly-hired Sabah Rhinos head coach seems to be taking things one step at a time.

 At the moment, it seems that his main focus (now) is selecting the best local players around before going into the next stage of bringing local imports before switching his focus on foreign signings. Azraai has about 50 players to pick from where 27 of them were from the recent open selection trials, while former state midfielder Joey Ryan Gundok was also seen attending training with the team alongside the current 20 players, whose contract with the Sabah FA ends at the end of this month.

 “We already had two training sessions (the 27 players), so far one player was injured during the Community League,” said Azraai when met at the team’s training at the Likas Stadium yesterday. “There was one last-minute inclusion. We saw him playing when we played against DYS FC recently, and I have already communicated with him. He has a slight injury, but we have asked him to report, but he has not shown up yet,” he said, referring to DYS FC’s Md Asrie Basalie.

 “What we see is that (in the group of players), the talent is there, the only thing is that most of the players … the physical condition is not there for competitive level. But whatever it is, we still have time and most importantly we can get a few from all the guys here. “Last night we had a briefing with them. Some of them are former President’s Cup players, and we have some from the Sukma champions’ team.

 There are a few players whom are ex-State players there such as Shahrudin (Yakub), so we already have playing experience there. “I think given some time, it should be a good sign. We can also have stand-by players this time, and if we need to bring in local imports, they must be first-team material. “Even if that happens, we need cooperation from the management. “So, what I’m doing now is that regarding the final decision on players from Peninsular Malaysia, now we are still waiting for the green light from the management and discussion.

 “For now, we are focusing on the players that we have and hoping that we can form a formidable side. “But from what I have seen, we need a lot to filter from these current players,” he said and revealed that he will trim it after a week of training. “We have conducted training matches between present players and the new players, using different combinations and set ups, seeing how they cope with each other and so on. So from there we can see and come out with the best combination. Definitely there will be some (to be dropped after one week), or else I will not waste my time,” he said.

 “This is only on Sabahans, on the real side the players to be taken from the mainland, they must be first-team material, that I also need to have a discussion with the management, how much is the budget and how much we can afford and so on. “I’m trying very hard to see the President (Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman) as soon as possible because I’m directly answerable to Mr President. Definitely I would like to see the President to sort things out. “I want the team to be set up by December … by the end of November players whose contracts expired and are not renewed, they can leave the team and those who stay will have their contracts renewed. “To me in the month of December we should be able to have a team,” Azraai said.

 When asked on foreign players, he said: “It is still a big question mark on foreign players. It’s a new set-up here and I do not know what is going to be and so I think the best is after consulting the President, what are the requirements and budget. “It’s still early to talk on the foreigners. I’ve been receiving many messages, whatsapp from ex foreign players for Sabah offering themselves, some even through agents and even supporters who wanted to be agents.

 “For me, for the new season I need new faces, especially foreign players, for me those who have donned Sabah colours all this while, if they are good enough they should have taken Sabah up to the Super League, so they failed and it means they are not good enough to be in the team anymore, so don’t waste time contacting me through whatsapp or whatsoever,” Azraai said.

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