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Thursday January 17, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Monday April 22, 2013 MYT 6:17:01 PM
by story andphotos by ronnie oh
FOR a football team to lose eight first choice players, the season is as good as over. But this does not apply to Belia Asas Bersatu in the ongoing inaugural Under-19 League.
Despite losing the players to the Penang President’s Cup team, they still managed to stay in the hunt for the Amer Yusoff Cup.
Coach Suhaimi Ismail had to look for new players to fill the void and the upstarts displayed true grit to carry on the fight.
They not only stood out but responded positively to his coaching.
This was evident when they fought their way back from an early setback to check into the inaugural final with a 3-1 win over Penang Youth SC in their semi-final showdown at the Polo Ground on Sunday.
It also allowed them to set up a Cup final date with Tanjong Bungah Rangers, who had in the other semi-final clash at an adjacent pitch, trooped out with a 2-0 win over Rifle Range SC.
Suhaimi admitted that it was a struggle when the eight first choice players decided to go into the FAP’s payroll to feature in the new President’s Cup season which kicks off later this year.
“Their confidence in wanting to don Penang colours was triggered by the fact that our club president Mohd Foaz (Hamid) is now the new FAP president after being elected into office last year.
“Taking into consideration that it is the future of our young players, we did not stop them from taking the first step towards a professional career.
“Our team suffered as it meant coming up with a new squad for our challenge in the newly introduced Under-19 League, a tournament designed by the new FAP committee to unearth new talents,” he said.
Suhaimi managed to get the raw recruits ready and they displayed good ability and understanding with the remaining players.
“Although there’s still room for improvement, I’m happy to have survived the ordeal. When we made the cut to the semi-final, which was our initial target, it made me believe that it was our turning point.
“Another encouraging point was our determination to emulate what the senior team had accomplished, coming off tops in their Division Two campaign to gain promotion to the FAP Division One League which kicks off later this year,” he added.
That determination proved to be the key for Belia Asas Bersatu’s upstarts despite battling against an ‘equally hungry for glory’ Penang Youth SC (PYSC).
Even a 26th minute deficit, after Mohd Sharil drew first blood for PYSC, failed to douse the burning ambition of the Tanjong Tokong-based Belia Asas Bersatu side, which until then managed to keep a clean sheet in their four preliminary matches.
It was a controversial 71st minute penalty taken by Belia Asas Bersatu’s most promising player, Amir Asyraf Basri, that changed the game as it proved to be more than just an equaliser.
With Abdul Hafiz Harun hitting it right to put Belia Asas Bersatu into the lead for the first time midway into the second half, Said Sayed Muhammad Ammar stepped up a gear to put their Cup final ticket beyond doubt when he delivered the third blow just minutes before the final whistle.
In the other match, it was the superb goal-keeping of Mohamad Rozaimi that proved crucial in Tanjong Bungah Rangers picking up the other Cup final ticket.
Despite the penalty for Rifle Range SC, coming early in the second half and at a time when they were left trailing by an Ismer Nizam first half strike, Mohamad Rozaimi boldly stood his ground between the post.
Mohamad Rozaimi not only guessed it right when he stopped the first penalty attempt by Mohamed Nabil which had to be retaken after he was ruled to have moved off his line ahead of the whistle, he did likewise with the second try.
When Safiq Yusri blasted home Tanjong Bungah Rangers’ second goal, their Cup final dream was on.
Tanjong Bungah Rangers coach Noor Shukri Hashim described their victory as their greatest achievement in recent years and said it had been three years since they last tasted success.
“We were then crowned FAP Div 3 champion after beating Kampong Makam FC in the final. I’m delighted to see my players, the majority of them, aged 18, putting up a gritty performance to keep Rifle Range SC at bay.
“I have to concede that we will be taking to the field as the underdog against Belia Asas Bersatu which have lived up to their pre-tournament tag as favourites in their campaign.
“But this does not mean that we are giving up without a fight. With a Cup final often proving to be a touch and go affair, we are ready to give our best shot,” he said.
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