Source : New SabahTimes

20th May, 2008

KOTA KINABALU: The Rhinos are in the hunt for a foreign striker and a midfielder to beef up its squad ahead of the prestigious Malaysia Cup tournament that kicks off next month.

It is believed that head coach Drago Mamic has been given the task to look for the player or players in question. The Croatian is currently on holiday in his home country. “With almost all the leagues in Europe having the “off season” Drago is taking the opportunity to try and bring in top players for the Rhinos,” a reliable source told the New Sabah Times Sport yesterday.

“We just hope he will be able to find the right players because we are serious in mounting a strong challenge in the Malaysia Cup,” he added. Currently Sabah have already completed their foreign quota in the team. But in the case that there are better players coming, then they would have to offload two players. The current foreign players in the Rhinos’ squad are Bosnia-Herzegovina defender Dragic Dalibor, Brazilian striker Andre Scotti Ossemer and Georgian attacking player Kokhrei Dze Irakli.

Meanwhile, team manager Rahman Zakaria refused to be drawn into the matter. He also declined to comment on whether they would be hiring new local players from other teams for the Malaysia Cup challenge. “I have nothing to comment until any deal is done. But then again, it is always our practice or our policy to try to strengthen the team and among the ways are to bring in new players … be local or foreign,” he said.

When pressed further, Rahman said: “We have planned for that and if there are players who fit our criteria, we will certainly hire them. “However, most of the good players (from non-participating squads) could have been snatched by other teams … we’ll see how things develop prior to the kick off.

“If we are not able to find one, I’m happy with the current squad that we have. I have confidence in them to carry the State challenge in the prestigious competition,” said Rahman.

In the Malaysia Cup, qualified teams are allowed to loan players from non-participating teams Sabah had a disappointing season to their Premier League challenge. They failed to gain promotion into the Super League after finishing fourth behind the two promoted sides – eventual champions Kuala Muda Naza, KL Plus and Kelantan.

Rahman said they would not want to waste the opportunity to make amends in the Malaysia Cup. He went on to say that the Rhinos are currently undergoing training and most likely there would be friendly games to further fine tune their preparations for the Malaysia Cup.

Sabah has been pooled along with reigning Malaysia Cup champions Kedah in Group B of the preliminary rounds. The others are Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Police and Johor FC. The Malaysia Cup will kick off on June 11. The teams in Group A will see Terengganu, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Kelantan, Sarawak and Melaka, while last year’s beaten finalists Perak will lead the charge in Group C alongside Perlis, Pahang, Armed Forces, UPB-MyTEAM, and Johor Pasir Gudang.

Only the top two teams will advance into the quarter-finals along with the two best third placed teams. Sabah will open their campaign away to Kuala Lumpur on June 24.

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