KOTA KINABALU: A buoyant Sabah will be making a return to the country’s top tier, the Super League, where they will begin their quest by flying off to Southern club side Johor FC on January 29.
Their second fixture most probably will be an away tie which will be a cost-cutting measure for the outfit from the Land Below the Wind.
This will be the State’s first appearance in the 14-team League in six years since their demotion at the end of the 2005 season to a lower level of the country’s League.
The New Sabah Times Sports’ source reported that the FA of Malaysia is expected to release the full 2011 fixtures by next week. Only the first match involving all teams in the Super League was finalised during a meeting at the national capital on Saturday.
For the new season, the Sabah FA, under the leadership of the honorable Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman has retained the services of Australian Gary Phillips, the man who succeeded in guiding them back to the Super League in his first season in charge.
Sabah finished second behind eventual Premier League champion Felda United FC last season (2010).
Besides retaining Gary, they have also recruited another Aussie in Mark Jones, to assist his countryman, while former State players Johnny Dominicus as well as former State captain Khairul Azman Mohamad, whom both were in the successful squad that lifted the Premier League (now the Super League) crown back in 1996.
And that is not all as the FA has also reinforced its squad with nine new signings, several of them former internationals.
This clearly shows that they want to mark their return with a bang.
Out of the nine new signings, three are ex-players which includes two Sabah-born stars Zuraindey Jumai and Sumardi Hajalan.
The other is Jeremy Matthew Danker.
The rest of the new signings are Stanley Bernard Stephen, Syed Adney Syed Hussien, M. Sivakumar, Hariri Mohd Safii, K. Thanaraj and Mohd Safuan Ibrahim.
Those retained from last season’s squad are; Azizon Abdul Kadir, Mohd Salawi Jasad, Gasili Pengalot, Mafry Balang, Reithuddin Ag Embran, Rosdin Wasli, Julamri Muhammad, Shahrul Azhar Ture, Sabri Sahar, Alto Linus, Zainizam Marjan, Razlan Oto, Mohd Farid Ideris and Leopold Alfonso Otong.
In the FA Cup Sabah have been drawn against Pahang in the first round. Unlike previous years this time the first and second rounds which will be played on a knock out system format, will be a one-leg affair.
The two-leg system will only be used from quarter-finals onwards. This will be tricky as Sabah will have to beat their opponent away from home if they harbour any hopes of marching into the second round.
The Sabah-Pahang FA Cup tie is scheduled for February 19.
The M-League will kick off with a Charity match between Super League 2010 champion Selangor and Malaysia Cup winners Kelantan on January 29