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Friday, December 22, 2017

PJ Rangers snatch Ronny under Rhinos’ noses

By FRANCIS XAVIER

 KOTA KINABALU: National defender Ronny Harun has joined PJ Rangers in an undisclosed deal on Wednesday that eventually ended Sabah Rhinos’ chase of signing its former player. He is the second Sabahan to have signed for the FAM Cup outfit, formerly known as AirAsia Allstars, after young goalkeeper Masran Masri.

 The national defender was initially reported to be keen to make a return to his home state – Sabah. He was even spotted training with the state team at least once, but due to lack of urgency in the part of the Sabah FA in getting his signature, the 33-year-old Sipitang-born player, who made his Sabah debut in 2003, opted to sign for PJ Rangers instead.

 Ronny, who is comfortable playing at the back four, played for Sarawak the last five seasons until his contract ended recently. Apart from Sarawak, Ronny, who was the only Malaysian in the AFF Best XI at the 2017 AFF Football Awards recently, had also donned Kedah and Terengganu colours during his career spanning 14 years. Datuk Juil Nuatim confirmed that Ronny signed on the dotted line with PJ Rangers.

 The Sabah Rhinos team manager then went on to say that they will now try their best in getting the services of another Sabahan in Mafry Balang. “We will do everything we could to sign him,” said Juil. The out-of-contract Mafry donned Penang colours the last several seasons until his contract ran out recently. Like Ronny, Mafry, who could play at the back line or could also be deployed as a defensive midfielder, was spotted training with the state team.

 Meanwhile, Sabah Rhinos head coach Jelius Ating is disappointed for missing out on Ronny. “I am very upset to miss out on Ronny because I had tried my best to convince him and Mafry to come back. In fact they had verbally agreed to guide our team next year. “They even turned down several offers from other teams in the Peninsula, including one from Thailand for Ronny. Unfortunately in the end, the negotiations did not work out and as a result we have to do without Ronny, which is a real shame,” said Jelius.

 “I was informed by him that the coach and an official came here with a contract and asked him to sign. And since there was no MOU between Ronny and SAFA, therefore he was free to sign. “I just hope the deal with Mafry can work out soon so that we will not lose him. He is currently back in Penang to sort out his belongings, and should be back tomorrow,” Jelius said. In another development, Polish striker Mateusz Staporski is the latest foreign hopeful to attend trials with the Sabah Rhinos.

 The 29-year-old, who could also be deployed at the right wing, is the eighth foreign player to have come here for trials. He attended his first training session with the team on Wednesday, along with British-born Gambian striker Njie Pa Sullay and Ivory Coast player Arthur Koussi. However, Koussi left for the Philippines yesterday leaving Staporski and Sullay the only foreign hopefuls currently with the team.

 Earlier on, two Spaniards Alain Eizagirre and Sergi Arimany Pruenca, Brazilian Geison Moura, Ivory Coast national Ballo Famoussa, Alagi Sosseh, also from Gambia had attended trials with the team, but failed to make an impression. With time running out fast, Sabah Rhinos could summon their former Serbian striker Rodoljub Paunovic to fill in the last foreign quota of the team. Sabah Rhinos already have two Koreans Lee Gil-Hon and Heo Jaenyeong as well as Croatian defender Igor Cerina, who is yet to report for training, in the team. For the record, the 2018 campaign is expected to kick off on February 2.

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