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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Mafry returns to Rhinos fold

By FRANCIS XAVIER

 KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Football Association brought early ‘Christmas Cheer’ to 14 state footballers, including Mafry Balang, after handing them with one-year undisclosed deals. The 14 put pen to paper in a simple ceremony held at the FA’s meeting room in Maksak Hall, Likas, near here yesterday.

 Sipitang-born Mafry, a defender, who could also be deployed as a defensive midfielder, is seen as the most notable signing. The 33-year-old, who last played for Sabah in 2012, donned Penang colours the last three seasons. He is among the seven new faces that have been signed to beef up the team ahead of the new season.

 The FA also snapped up Labuan-born striker Mazlan Yahya, who played for Selangor PKNS this year, while former KDMM FC midfielder Melky Balang will also be under the payroll of the FA for the new season. Elias Sulaiman from Penang is another player being brought in to strengthen the state squad.

 The FA also tied up former Reserve League flanker Justin Samaan, who emerged as the top scorer at the Tan Sri Musa Haji Aman Inter-District Football tournament. President’s Cup striker Hamran Peter and Under-19 defender Evan Wensley Wenceslaus have also been promoted into the senior squad. Another President’s Cupper Stanley Sulong too is being offered a contract, but the latter has yet to decide on his future after being accepted into the Prisons Department, and scheduled to report for training next month.

 The rest are players from the 2017 squad, who had their contracts renewed. They are Dendy Lowa, Robson Rendy Rining, Mohd Sakri Masri, Sabri Sahar, Randy Baruh @ Samson, Leopold Alfonso Otong and Rozaimi Rohim. The 14 will join 10 others, whose contracts run until the end of the 2018 season. They are Rawilson Batuil, Ricco Nigel Milus, Mohd Azzizan Nordin, Jenius Karib, Ummareng Bacok, Maxsius Musa, Mohd Azwan Abd Fattah and Croatian defender Igor Cerina. Korean duo Lee Gil-hoon and Heo Jaenyeong will also be part of the team next season as their contracts will only end in April, 2018.

 The FA is still looking for a foreign striker to complete their foreign imports’ quota with Serbian Rodoljub Paunovic likely to be the man to fill in the last slot. At the same function, Datuk Juil Nuatim also signed his appointment letter as the state’s Premier League squad team manager, and so did the coaching staff, led by head coach Jelius Ating, assistant coach Burhan Ajui as well as fitness coach Jorrye Jakiwa, and physiotherapist Matlan Basir.

 However, goalkeeper coach Mark Damun is requesting for a little bit of time before he decides on his future. Sabah FA Deputy President II Datuk Lawrence Gimbang, Reserve League team manager Mohd Yassin Aman and his assistant Benedict Asmat, who is also Sabah FA Supreme Council member, and executive secretary Hasbullah Yahya were also present at the function. When approached, Juil said he was glad that they have almost completed their squad for the new season. 

“With this latest development, the team can now fully focus on their preparations for the new season. “We are still looking for a foreign striker. So far, those who have attended trials failed to impress us. We might take back Paunovic. We will see what happens because when it comes to selecting players, we leave it to our head coach Jelius to decide,” he said.

 On their preparations, Juil is happy with how things are going. He also revealed their plans of going for a pre-season friendly tour overseas with the Philippines their likely destination. “We are planning to take on Global Cebu FC. We are working on it, and hopefully, we will make the trip. They are a good side. They beat JDT 3-2 at home, but lost 0-4 away,” said Juil. Meanwhile, Jelius said he is still hoping to add two or three more players to his squad with a foreign striker and a centre back his priority.

 “We still have a few more players training with us like Alto (Linus), Shafiee (Talib) as well as youngster Mohd Aidil Safee. We will have a good look at them before we make a decision. “I’m also thinking of recalling former state defender Hardy (Charles Parsi). I have spoken to Bob (Burhan) about it, and he kind of agrees that he (Hardy) could be a good buy,” Jelius said. With 24 players tied up, there are still six slots left, including one foreign, to complete the 30-player quota per team. The state Reserve League as well as the Under-19 squads also penned their contracts yesterday.

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