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Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Rhinos begin hunt for prolific striker

By FRANCIS XAVIER

 KOTA KINABALU: A Spaniard and a Brazilian attacker are the early birds to have arrived here to attend trials with the Sabah Rhinos as the state side begins their search for a top-notch striker in a bid to bolster their attack in the Premier League challenge next season. Alain Eizagirre, 25, who could play as a leading striker as well as a left winger and Brazilian Geison Moura, 31, attended their first session of trials with the team at the Likas Stadium yesterday after arriving in the state capital late Monday.

 Sabah Rhinos head coach Jelius Ating said he is looking for a prolific striker following the departure of Serbian forward Rodoljub Paunovic, whose short-term contract was not extended along with Zambian defender Francis Kasonde. He said he will have a good look at all hopefuls before picking up his choice.

 “We are looking to fill the one slot for foreign imports and as of today (yesterday) there are two players currently joining in with the team. “We are expecting more to come in the coming days or weeks, and we will have a good look at all of them before we decide on our choice. We are looking for someone that fits our criteria,” said Jelius, when met at the team’s training.

 The 181cm-tall Eizagirre was in the youth set up of Real Sociedad before signing for Real Union Club, who featured in the Spanish 2nd B Division. After that he signed for Platges de Calvia, a 3rd Division team in Spain before joining Thinadhoo Sports Club in Maldives last April. He was named top scorer of the Minivian Championship (equal to second division) with 13 goals in 11 matches to help his team finish as runners-up and achieve promotion to the Dihvehi Maldives Premier League.

 As for Moura, he last played in the North American Soccer League with Fort Lauderdale Strikers last year, and had also played for Hougang United in the Singapore League in 2014 where the Sabah Rhinos Croatian defender Igor Cerina was his team-mate (then). He also had two stints with the Minnesota United FC (2010-2013 and 2015).

 The 178cm tall striker’s most productive season was playing with Hougang United where he scored 21 goals in 27 appearances to emerge as the joint top scorer. Meanwhile, Jelius said his ultimate task now is to strengthen his backline with new signings. Left of midfield is another area where he hopes to strengthen. For the defensive options, Jelius hopes to sign former players Mafry Balang, who has been with the team for two weeks, and Sarawak captain Ronny Harun to add experience to his the backline, which has been the team’s main weakness for the past seasons.

 “The team also need a natural left-footed player to play in left-back and midfield. “(Former Reserve League player) Justin Samaan is a natural left-footer, but he is still raw and that is why I also hope to get an experienced midfield man to guide the youngsters. “We are waiting for a midfield player to come in as recommended by Mafry who played alongside him in Penang. I think he should be here by tomorrow (today),” said Jelius, while stressing that he will only bring quality into the team.

 On the more than a dozen of hopefuls currently undergoing training with the team, Jelius said he will try them out during their upcoming friendlies on December 9, December 11 and December 13. “Some of them are quite impressive, but we still need to have a look at them. I think, I will decide (on the hopefuls) after our friendly games next week,” added Jelius.

 Besides the two foreign imports, Shazalee Ramlee, who donned Penang colours last season, was also seen training with the team yesterday.

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