Friday, 3 January 2014 | MYT 10:13 PM
Fans turn up in droves again to watch the Panthers
GEORGE TOWN: It has been more than a decade since Penang last played a competitive football match in front of a packed home crowd at the City Stadium.
But if the attendances from the recent friendlies are used as a guideline, then the Panthers can brace for a return of the famed “Keramat Roar” when the new Premier League season kicks off on Jan 24.
The overhaul of the state team for the 2014 challenge has seen the fans return in droves to the oldest stadium in the country for the pre-season friendlies. On Dec 7, the 20,000-capacity stadium was packed to the brim by supporters who forked out RM5 each to buy tickets and watch Penang beat FA Cup champions Kelantan 2-0 in a friendly.
Penang, the 2013 FAM Cup champions, are making a return to the second-tier Premier League after a hiatus of three years.
“There is a good vibe in Penang football right now, It has been a long time since the City Stadium was full, and we’ve not even started the season yet,” said Penang team manager Mohd Azizudin Shariff on Friday.
“The team management have made a huge investment to ensure Penang are capable of challenging the big boys in the Premier League this year. Our target is to qualify for the Malaysia Cup by finishing among the top four in the league.”
There was also more good news for Penang as their new coach K. Devan has settled his dispute with his former employers Felda United.
Felda had dismissed Devan midway through their disastrous Super League campaign last season and hired Irfan Bakti as his replacement. But the relegated team dropped a bombshell shortly after Devan signed for Penang in November by saying that the coach was contracted with them until the end of 2014 and was needed to oversee Felda’s youth team.
Azizuddin clarified that the matter had been settled amicably between Felda and Devan. The former Negri Sembilan and Selangor coach is now free to carry on his duties with Penang.
Said Azizudin: “I am glad that the Felda issue was settled early and we can concentrate on preparing for the season without distractions. Our four foreign signings have also returned from their holidays and it is full steam ahead for us in training.”
Penang signed defender Lee Kwang-hyun and midfielder Lee Kil-hoon, both South Koreans, Brazilian striker Hilton Moreira and the Angolan-born French-based Titi Buengo to fill the four foreign quota positions. The new local signings are Azizan Baba (Sarawak), Zamri Chin (Sime Darby), G. Mahathevan (T-Team), Yong Kuong Yong and Rafiuddin Rodin (both Perak), G. Jeevanathan (Armed Forces) and Hariri Safii, Lew Han Hung and Shazuan Ashraf Matthews (all Kedah).