Kota Kinabalu: Twenty footballers have signed new contracts with the Sabah Amateur Football Association at a simple ceremony here, Saturday.
Safa had offered contracts to 25 players but only 20 turned up to sign their papers.
The four who did not turn up were Zainizam Marjan, Rosdin Wasli, Khaliluddin Abdul Razak, Irwan Jamil and Harold John Kathil.
Express Sports learnt that Zainizam and Harold both failed to give any reasons for their absence, while Khaliluddin is still arranging personal matters to get released from his current employer.
Rosdin on the other hand is nursing his sick son, while Irwan is still out injured.
Zainizam and Harold were both issued warnings for their unexplained absence. They are expected to report immediately to Safa’s Secretary General, Alijus Sipil to explain why they failed to turn up. Failing to do so would mean they could be dropped from the squad.
In a speech at the ceremony, Safa Vice President 1-cum-Safa Professional Squad Management Committee Chairman, Datuk Osman Jamal said that he was delighted that most of the players took the offer and signed their contracts.
He said that this showed that the players still have faith in Safa managing the team and its players.
“I am happy to see today that many of you have opted to sign your new contracts. This means you still have faith in Safa to manage the team.
We appreciate this and we will do everything that we can to improve our situation,” said Osman.
He called on the players to focus more on their training and improving their skills and urged them not to get involved in management dealings.
“We all have our own jobs to do. Ours is to make sure that the administration runs smoothly by securing sponsorships in order to sustain our expenses, and yours, as players, is solely to focus and concentrate on improving your skills.
“We want Sabah to do better next season and in fact it is the hope of our president, the honourable Chief Minister, Datuk Musa Aman, that Sabah were to do much better next season so that we could hopefully enter the Super League,” said Osman.
Out of the 21 players that signed their contracts, 17 of them were players from last season’s squad, while five of them are Sabahan footballers who have returned to don state colours after previously playing for other outfits.
The five players are Bobby Gonzales, Razlan Oto, Md Reithaudin Awang Embran, Mazlan Emoi and Christopher Musa.
Players from last season include Azrul Ejati Damsah, Joel Ryan Gandok, Rosdin Wasli, Mohd Farid Saibun, Julamri Muhamad, Mohd Radzi Hussin, Billyton Vun Ket Ming, Mafry Balang, Hardy Charles Parsi, Gasili Pengalot, Mohd June AzraL Lala, Hendry Parsi, Irwan Jamil, Mohd Salawi Ahmad Jasad and Leopold Alphonso Otong.
Meanwhile, Safa Deputy President, Datuk Lawrence Gimbang, who was also present, said he hopes that the players would play their best next season to get Sabah promoted to the Super League.
“We really hope that Sabah can get promoted next season. We have been in the Premier League too long and it is time for us to start moving up,” he said.
Apart from signing players, Safa is also looking forward to sign its new head coach, Gary Philips.
The Australian coach is said to be in the midst of settling some issues with his current employers before he can start offering his services to Safa.
He is expected to come on board on a three-year contract sometime next month.
Justine Ganai on the other hand has signed a two-year contract as assistant coach, while Rozlee Idris signed for the same job for a one-year contract.