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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Musa names officials for 2018 campaign

By FRANCIS XAVIER

 KOTA KINABALU: Jelius Ating had his Premier League stay extended, at least for another season after being retained as the Sabah Rhinos head coach for the 2018 campaign. This is seen as a reward for the former state stalwart after guiding the state side to safety when he was first handed the role midway into the first round of the 2017 campaign.

 The 46-year-old along with his former central defensive partner of several seasons, Burhan Ajui, 44, assistant coach have been entrusted to form a formidable side in order to mount a stronger challenge in the Premier League campaign next year. Hailing from Sipitang, Jelius helmed the Sabah Rhinos hot seat in late March this year, replacing Frenchman Steve Vilmiaire, who left the team barely four months into the job, following a string of poor results.

 Prior to the promotion, the former state captain who has an FA Cup (1995) and Premier League (1996) medal to his name, was into his second season with the state Under-19 squad. Sabah FA president Tan Sri Musa Haji Aman, who is also the Chief Minister, announced the appointment in a statement read by deputy president II Datuk Lawrence Gimbang during a press conference held at the FA’s office in Maksak Hall, Likas yesterday.

 The statement also included the appointment for the state President’s Cup (Under-21) and the Youth Cup (Under-19). Also retained in the senior team set up are Datuk Juil Nuatim as the team manager. Mark Damun has also being retained as the goalkeeper coach while Jorrye Jakiwa, is the only new face in the coaching staff, after being named as a fitness coach while the long-serving Matlan Basir is the team physiotherapist.

 As for the Under-21 squad, Mohd Yassin Aman, who led the highly impressive state Youth Cup side in the past couple of seasons as team manager, has been promoted. He is now the team manager for the President’s Cup side. Johnny Dominicus, who led Sabah to historic gold in the Malaysia Games (Sukma) 2012 in Pahang, and was assisting Justin Ganai this season, has been handed with the head coach position.

On the other hand, Justin is expected to be given a new role in the Sabah FA set-up. Johnny will be assisted by former state flanker Vun Ket Ming @ Billyton, who was promoted from the Under-19 side. Jasrih Jabidin is the goalkeeper coach, Jasrih Awang Matusin as fitness coach and Maxson Michael George as the team physio. As for the Youth Cup squad, Azman Mastar has been named as the team manager while the head coach is Mohd Aiyyman Johny Abdullah.

 Aiyyman, who has the experience of coaching in the FAM Cup as well as assistant coach to Mohd Asyraaf Fong Abdullah in the national women’s Kuala Lumpur SEA Games football squad, will be assisted by Sueli Apin, from Keningau. Also in the team are Mohd Noor Xaverius Sango @ Francis (goalkeeper coach), Muhamadin Abdul Ajid (fitness coach) and Halmond Ting Kai Soon (team physio).

 Meanwhile, Lawrence, when asked said for now, the focus is for Jelius and co to select the right players who can contribute to the team’s progress. “We hope he (Jelius) will select good players, and not those who are mere passengers in the team,” said Lawrence. Asked on the possibility of Sabah-born Mafry Balang and Ronny Harun of making a comeback into the state team, Lawrence refused to give a definite answer by saying that they have given Jelius full power to select players of his choice. 

However, he added, the FA will make sure that these players are free from injury before any deal can be completed. He also revealed that they are looking for new foreign imports after the State FA opted not to extend the contracts of Zambian defender Francis Kasonde and Serbian striker Rodoljub Paunovic.

 At the moment, South Korean duo Lee Gil Hoon and Hae Jeonyong as well as Croatian defender Igor Cerina, who has recovered from a long-term injury, are still under contract with Sabah FA. “We are still looking for one foreign player, a striker, and there will be some arrivals to take part in the trials.

We are also giving him full power in hiring the foreign players. The most important thing is that our emphasis is the team must be strong to face the challenges next season,” he said. Lawrence also said Sabah will be involved in three friendly matches against Indonesian side PPLP Bina Sentra on December 9, December 11 and December 13. He said the matches will be part of the team’s preparations for the 2018 season.

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