KOTA KINABALU: The Rhinos will be spearheaded by local talents next season after the Sabah FA decided to go local as they try to bring the Sabahan spirit back into the team.
The FA acting President Datuk Lawrence Gimbang said they will use all local players for the new season that is scheduled to kick off in early January next year.
Gimbang said it is timely for them to make such a move, pointing out that it is for the betterment of the team.
“We have just decided that we will go all local next season. And we want them to play for the State with full commitment,” he said, after chairing the FA’s team management committee meeting at its office in Likas on Monday night.
He went on to say that the FA of Malaysia (FAM)’s decision to do away with the foreign players next season is indeed a blessing in disguise as they will have the opportunity to bank on the local talents.
“The move (by FAM) is a blessing in disguise and we will fully utilise the local players to carry the Rhinos’ challenge in the coming campaign.
“We will not sign any local imports from the Peninsula or anywhere else,” he said.
Also present were Secretary General Alfred Lojitan, Treasurer Joehari Datuk Ayub, Executive Secretary Harry Baking and Team Manager Rahman Zakaria.
Meanwhile Joehari, a former team manager, added that the decision augers well with the efforts to bring back the spirit of Sabah among the players.
And Joehari is confident that a State team with an all-Sabahan line-up will be equally capable of spearheading the State challenge in search for glory in the domestic football scene.
He said Sabah did it in style during the time of ‘King’ James Wong and Hassan Sani and that it is possible for a repeat of the same achievement.
“We have more than enough players to form a good team … several of them have come back to the current training squad and we will welcome more.
However, he said that there are procedures to be followed and there will be no automatic choice.
“Each and every one of the players must fight and prove their worth … those who fit into the team’s criteria will be selected,” he said.
The State squad comprising existing players, former players and those from youth teams are currently undergoing pre-season training under acting coach Burhan Ajui.
Among those ex-players who are keen to make a comeback and have been training with the State squad are Gasili Pengalot, Mafry Ballang, Zaykiel Leong, Vun Ket Ming @ Billyton and Rezuan Aman Khan to name a few.
In a related development, Gimbang said that they will name the coach for the State team within this week.
“We have shortlisted our candidates and we will interview them and will hold another team management meeting before we name our man,” said Gimbang.