KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah FA is only one piece away from completing their jigsaw puzzle in preparing their squad for the new M-League season.
They are now only waiting for first choice custodian Irwan Jamil to recover from injury before offering him a contract.
In the meantime, former Rhinos’ keeper Mark Damun has been signed for cover with Harold John likely to be promoted as the Rhinos’ Number 1 in the absence of Irwan while Mohd Salawi Jasad will have to fight for the Number 2 spot with Mark.
Mark, Harold together with Zainizam Marjan and Rosdin Wasli were among the latest players to have signed their respective contracts yesterday.
The withdrawal of Khaliluddin Abd Razak from the team after failing to get a release from his employer also gave former striker Alto Linus a new lease of life as he too penned his contract.
Khaliluddin is a police officer based in Beaufort.
As of now, the FA has a team or a squad for the new season as Irwan is only expected to feature for the team in the second round of the Premier League, which Sabah will be appearing for a record fifth season.
They were demoted from the Super League at the end of the 2005 season.
Over the weekend, 20 players signed their respective contracts between one to three years.
With the five (Zainizam, Rosdin, Harold, Alto, and Mark) signing their contracts yesterday, the FA has 25 players for the new season, excluding Irwan.
However, there will still be one slot open for Irwan, as teenager Leopold Alfonso Otong will be registered under the Reserve League squad, but will train and play for the senior side.
For the record, each participating team in the M-League is allowed to register 25 players, but can change or bring in new players when the transfer window opens midway through the season as well as before the Malaysia Cup campaign.
The FA Secretary General Alijus Haji Sipil when contacted was delighted to note that they now have the squad to spearhead their challenge for the new season.
“We have signed a total of 25 players for the new season, and the only thing left to do is submit their names to FAM for registration, which will be done later this week.
“Once this is done the team can then focus fully on preparations for the new season, which is anticipated to kick-off sometime middle of next month,” he said.
Regarding Irwan’s case, Alijus said: “At the moment, he is not part of the team because he is still recuperating from a long-term injury.
“We will be assessing his fitness and recovery from time to time, and when he is deemed fit, we will offer him a contract,” said Alijus.
“Khaliluddin will not be joining us. The Royal Malaysian Police Sports Council did not approve his application to play for the state team,” he added.
Those who signed their contracts last Saturday are Azrul Ejati Damsah, Joey Ryan Gundok, Mohd Farid Saibun, Julamri Muhammad, Mohd Radzi Hussin, Billyton Vun Ket Ming, Mafry Balang, Hardy Charles Parsi, Gasili Pengalot, Mohd June Azral Lalah, Hendry Parsi, Mohd Salawi Jasad, Leopold, Mohd Farid Ideris, Razlan Otto, Bobby Gonzales, Shahrul Azhar Ture, Christopher Musa, Mohd Reithuddin Awang Embran and Madzalan Emoi.