KOTA KINABALU: Four new players look set to don the Rhinos’ colours as the Sabah FA named an almost all-local squad for the new season.
Seven ex-Rhinos were also roped back into the team with one player from the Reserve League squad being promoted, while another 13 players were retained from last year’s squad.
Keningau youngster Alto Jinus, Hamidin Amat, Awang Norizan Ensim and Mohd Fariss Mat Isa are the new faces, while Selyvister Saini is being promoted from the Reserve League.
Those ex-players that are making a comeback are Mafry Balang, Mohd June Azrah Lala, Gasili Pangalot, Clarrey Tabad, Billyton @ Vun Ket Ming, Zaykiel Leong, and Rezuan Aman Khan.
The 13 players retained for another season are Irwan Jamil, Harold John, Mohd Salawi Jasad, Henry Parsi, Hardy Charles Parsi, Mohd Radzi Hussin, Azrul Ejati Damsah, Zainizam Marjan, Zulamri Muhammad, Rosdin Wasli, Mohd Farid Saibun, Salvester Sindeh and Eddie Gapil
With the exception of Mohd Fariss, who hails from Kedah, the rest of the players are local.
Mohd Fariss played for Kuala Muda Naza last season.
Among those who have left the squad are Ahmad Tharmini Saiban, Munir Amran, Hishamuddin Othman, Mohd Nafuzi Zain, Bobby Gonzalez, Wong Sai Kong, Chow Chee Wing and Zuraindey Jumai.
Sabah will also not be having the services of foreign players after the FA of Malaysia decided to do away with the foreign imports for the new season.
“We have formed the squad and I firmly believe that the local players will have the guts and commitment as well as determination in playing for the State team,” said team manager Rahman Zakaria.
“Even though, we have said earlier that we are going to have an all-local side, but the inclusion of Mohd Fariss is for the good of the team.
“We need to strengthen our backline, and Mohd Fariss fits the bill as he is a central defender.
“So now, it is important for the selected players to stay focused and try to improve themselves as well as they can as a team.
“The fall and rise of the team will now depend on our very own players and I believe they have the extra motivation and determination to do well for the State and the team,” said Rahman.
“As much as we want to retain the whole squad from last season, but there is no point stopping them from leaving since they have no heart to play for Sabah,” added Rahman.
The new season is expected to kick off in early January where Sabah will be playing in the Premier League for the fourth consecutive season.