KOTA KINABALU: It was yet another disappointing Premier League season for the Rhinos – a fact admitted by Rahman Zakaria. “The season did not go our way and it is very disappointing despite the fact that we have the quality within the team to be in the top two,” the Rhinos’ team manager said.
But despite the failed mission, Rahman refused to put the blame on the players as he merely said “We suffered due to some unfavourable results as well as other factors, including the tight fixtures.” Sabah had eyed Super League promotion as their pre-tournament target, but unfortunately they ended their season in fourth behind eventual champions Kuala Muda Naza, KL Plus and Kelantan.
“I don’t want to take anything from the players because they have done their best. The same goes to the fans, both in the City area and in Tawau. They have been right behind us from the start, and I would like to take the opportunity to thank them all,” he added. For the record, Sabah played the first round of their challenge at the Tawau Sports Complex due to the faulty floodlights at the Likas Stadium, which was only available in early February.
The Premier League came to a climax on Saturday with Sabah ending their campaign on a winning note – thrashing Armed Forces 5-0 at the Likas Stadium that eventually helped them to unseat Johor Pasir Gudang from the fourth spot, who merely managed to end their season with a scoreless draw against Felda United FC.
In all, Sabah collected 44 points from 24 games in which they registered 13 wins, five draws and six defeats. Kuala Muda Naza were crowned champions on 61 points, followed by KL Plus FC on 57 points and Kelantan 53 points. With the fourth spot feat, a record of four consecutive seasons in the Premier League is beckoning for the Rhinos unless the FA of Malaysia decides to expand the current number of Super League teams.
And if that happens (expansion), there might be a playoff and Sabah could make it into the Super League through the back door. “It has happened before and I hope the FA of Malaysia (FAM) will give it consideration,” he said. As of press time, there was no genuine news on the matter, but a mere rumour, as the FAM is most likely to stick to its earlier stand that only one team would be demoted from the Super League and the two top Premier League teams would be promoted.
But Rahman said they are not giving much thought on the matter, as the main focus now would be the Malaysia Cup, which starts in June. “It is a different competition altogether compared to the League. Sabah, I promise, will be ready for the Malaysia Cup. “We will ensure the team get the best possible preparations to face the Malaysia Cup,” he said.
Sabah, who were the 2008 FA Cup quarter-finalists, will be among the 18 teams in the oldest Cup competition in the country. Meanwhile, Andre Scotti Ossemer finished as Sabah’s top scorer in the just concluded League with 12 goals. The Brazilian striker scored four of the goals in the 5-0 win over ATM with Zainizam Marjan adding a fifth at the Likas Stadium on Saturday.