14 January 2012

Their winning formula

Azamri Zainal

Friday, January 13, 2012

HAVING signed Samba hitman Rodrigo Gral to complete their import quota, DPMM FC coach Vjeran Simunic said the team now have "the ideal foreign players" for the new Singapore League (S-League) season.

But, the four import players will not be enough for according to the Croatian it is the local players that will make or break their season in the S-League, which kicks off on Feb 9.

"We hope we have chosen the ideal foreign players, but my focus remains on the local players. If I don't have a strong local team, not even (having Barcelona star Lionel) Messi will help me," Simunic told reporters at a pre-season Press conference at the Singapore Sports School on Wednesday.

"Gral is a very good player, he scored in the friendly earlier," Simunic told The Brunei Times before leaving for Singapore last week. The Croatian was referring to DPMM FC's friendly against the MS Police, whom they thrashed 5-0.

While expectations for Gral who graduated from the Gremio youth ranks in Brazil and starred for Japanese giants Jubilo Iwata and Yokohama Marinos will be high, Simunic has called for patience with the 34-year-old striker.

"Rodrigo has looked good in training ... but his fitness levels are not at 100 per cent and he played in an amateur league (last season)."

Gral joins his fellow Brazilian defender Tales Ricarte dos Santos, Ghanaian striker Osman Basiru and Croatian attacking midfielder Ivan Jerkovic to strengthen the Brunei team.

Jerkovic was a fan favourite in his previous spell with DPMM FC, but the Croatian coach also urged caution with the midfielder, who returns after a season with S-League's SAF FC, although he expected the playmaker to be a key player for the team once he's back to full fitness.

"Jerkovic is also not 100 per cent fit yet, (but I expect he) will play a key role," Simunic said in Singapore.

Having impressed many by winning the Singapore League Cup in 2009, before world governing body FIFA hit them with a two-year ban, DPMM FC are targeting a Top 5 finish as they prepare to return to professional football.

DPMM FC last played in Singapore's top flight in 2009, and having now served that suspension, the Brunei team have accepted the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) invitation to rejoin the S-League, and are aiming high once again.

"In 2009, we won the League Cup and were third in the league (when we were banned by FIFA)," team manager Pg Waslimin PSJ Pg Hj Abd Momin said at a Singapore Press conference this week.

"(Finishing in the) Top 5 seems to be a realistic target."

The FAS last week announced a slew of changes to the S-League, including a new CEO in former SAF FC chairman Lim Chin, the inclusion of the Harimau Muda Malaysia's national Under-23 side and a new format for the 14-team 2012 season, where it will shift from a three-round, 33-match season per team, to a two-round, 26-match season.

Simunic welcomed the changes.

"There is also the Singapore Cup and League Cup, which will add up to over 30 matches, which is just nice. It's definitely better for the players," he said.

"And with the addition of the Malaysian side (Harimau Muda), it will be very interesting for fans."The Brunei Times

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