Kota Kinabalu: The Sabah Football Association has finally released the names of the 16 local players who are to register with the M-League team next season.
Veteran striker Zainizam Marjan is still being retained together with senior defenders Rosdin Wasli and Alto Linus, midfielders Shahrul Azhar Ture, Sumardi Hajalan, Radzi Mohd Hussin and Shahrudin Yakup as well as third choice goalkeeper Irwan Jamil and striker Juffry Omopor, all from last season’s squad.
Three President Cup players who were promoted to the senior team are midfielders Sabri Sahar, Leopold Alfonso and defender Razid Gafar.
Former State centre half Hardy Charles Parsi who last played for ATM in the 2011 season also made a comeback together with midfielder Julamri Mohd who was sideline with injury last season.
Also in the team are former national Under-19 midfielder Mohd Ibnu Kassim and ex-Sukma player Farid Saibun who is a left back.
Sabah FA Vice President I Datuk Osman Jamal who chaired the meeting on Thursday evening said the selection was based on the feedback and reports from the coaches headed by David McCreery.
“It was a long process and the conclusion came after a series of trials held as recently as on November 9-11. I believe we have given ample time for the locals to win the hearts of the coaches and we are very sorry for those who did not make it.”
He said the most important criteria for the selection committee was the players’ discipline on and off the field.
“Their fitness also came into the picture but another important factor was how they can fit into McCreery’s game plan in the coming season.”
As for the local imports from other states, Osman said they have identified eight players and so far six have satisfied the coaches and two are to be given another chance to impress.
He also disclosed that they have signed former Gunner Rhys David Weston who has shown a clean sheet of health and in tiptop condition by the doctors.
“We will now be looking for a top rate striker to solve our goal-scoring woes for the past few seasons.
I believe our intended target who is 1.83m tall from Mali and played in the top Algeria league is on the way here and hopefully we will be able to see him next week.”
He also confirmed that the shortage of training pitch problem faced by McCreery has been solved as Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and Intan Institute have both agreed to let the team use their football fields for the team’s training sessions.
Meanwhile, the team will undertake a pre-season tour of Brunie in early December followed by friendly matches in Sarawak and Kalimantan where they will play against at least two top local professional clubs