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Sunday January 5, 2014 MYT 7:54:00 PM
Sunday January 5, 2014 MYT 8:22:38 PM
by loganath velloo
Filepic of Sime Darby FC captain, Es Lizuan Zahid Amir (left) fighting for the ball with a Kelantan player in the 2012 FA Cup final at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil. Both sides will start the new season against each other on Jan 18.
GEORGE TOWN: Super League newcomers Sime Darby FC are not worried over the tough baptism which awaits them when the new season kicks off.
The Kuala Lumpur-based club side, who gained promotion following a Premier League runners-up finish in 2013, could not have asked for a tougher opening three games.
Their first-ever Super League experience will be against FA Cup champions Kelantan on Jan 18 at the intimidating Sultan Mohd IV Stadium in Kota Baru. Three days later, Sime Darby entertain mighty Armed Forces at their shared Selayang Stadium home ground.
Sime Darby’s first Super League home game is against Malaysia Cup champions Pahang on Jan 25.
“We could not have asked for a tougher start to our life in the Super League,” said coach Ismail Zakaria, who is entering his fifth season with Sime Darby.
“But I am not complaining because my players will get an early feel of the real challenge awaiting them by taking on the big guns. The tough start can motivate them to raise their game for the subsequent matches.”
Despite not signing big-name local players, Ismail is happy with his squad’s preparation for life in the top flight.
Sime Darby wrapped up their northern tour with a 2-0 victory over Penang at the City Stadium on Saturday night. They had also beaten another Premier League side PBAPP FC 3-0 at the same venue on Thursday.
The two friendlies allowed Ismail to blend in his Syrian forward Mahmoud Amnah, who recently joined the team.
The 31-year-old, who was deployed as a back-up striker by Ismail, joined Sime Darby from Iraq Premier League team Sulaymaniyah FC. Their other imports are Ghanaian duo William Mensah (defender) and Wisdom Agblexo (striker) and Uzbek Dilshod Sharofetdinov (midfielder).
Added Ismail: “Amnah is still learning the team’s style of play, and I am happy with his work rate and contribution during the friendlies. I could only try out three imports in Penang as Wisdom has a slight hamstring trouble and I don’t want to risk playing him with the season’s start looming close.
“The foreigners need more games to build a better understanding with the local players, and I believe they can improve their performance by 20% when the real competition begins.”
Ismail is also happy with the young local players, who gelled well with the established seniors like Farderin Kadir, Juzaili Samion, Farid Ramli and Fadzli Saari.
“We have promoted eight players who are 21 or below to the senior team this year. My job is to get them to fit in seamlessly with the rest of the squad.
“This year will be a good learning experience not just for the young players but everyone connected to the club as we battle to remain competitive in the Super League,” said Ismail.
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