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Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Stanley chooses football

New Sabah Times

By FRANCIS XAVIER KOTA KINABALU: Stanley Sulong is turning down a job offer to pursue his football dream. The youngster has decided to pen his first professional contract with the Sabah Football Association after being included in the state Premier League squad for the 2018 campaign.

 Hailing from Sungai Api, Tenom, Stanley was accepted as a Prisons officer and is supposed to report for training later this month. But the 21-year-old could not turn down the chance to follow his dream, even though it came with a risk of insecurities where a professional footballer’s career has an average length of eight to 10 years from the time they sign their first professional contract.

 “I have decided to go for a higher target,” Stanley said, when asked on why he decided to turn down the job offer when met at the team’s training at the Likas Stadium yesterday. “I want to play for the national team one day … that’s my dream,” he added, as he vowed to train hard and will do his utmost best to improve himself. Stanley, who is the first child among his six siblings, said he did discuss the matter with his parents, but at the end of the day, it was him who made the final decision. 

The former student of SM St Anthony, Tenom, was spotted during the 2015 Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman Inter-District Football Tournament. Then Tenom, who were under the watchful eyes of former state striker Mohd Jaya Kassim, made it into the final but lost 1-3 to eventual champions Sandakan where Stanley scored from the spot for his side.

 The following year, he was roped in by Under-19 head coach Jelius Ating. After a season of playing in the Youth Cup, he was promoted to the Under-21 last year. Born on February 18, 1997, Stanley, is still eligible to play for the junior squad this year, but Jelius, who is now the head coach of the senior side, believes that Stanley, who can be deployed on the right or left of midfield, is good enough for the senior squad.

 “Now that he has decided to choose football, he will sign his contract with the Sabah FA any day now, and once he does that, he will be among the 25 players that we have signed for the new season. “So we only have five more slots left, to be filled, including one under the foreign quota,” said Jelius. Back to Stanley, Jelius sees that the youngster has good potential in the game.

 “He (Stanley) is one talented player, and he was with me since 2016. When I took over the senior team, I asked him to attend training with the senior team, and decided to give him a chance, even though he is still eligible to play for the juniors,” said Jelius. “He has been progressing well, and the same goes for a few more youngsters in the squad such as Hamran Peter, who is still eligible to play for the Under-21 squad as well as Mohd Aidil (Safee) and Evan (Wensley Wenceslaus).

“They may not be the key player/s for this season, but in the near future, they are going to be the backbone of the team. “They are our back-up players, but if they are willing to fight for their place in the first team, I’m sure they stand a good chance. “For instance, Stanley is a fighter and is a football genius and can make good crosses. I believe their presence will give the seniors good competition for the first team,” said Jelius.

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