PETALING JAYA: Once mighty Kuala Lumpur are desperate to get out of the doldrums.
And coach Ismail Zakaria is optimistic that his new-look squad can finally make a strong claim for the Premier League title and end their 17-year title drought.
“This KL team will be no pushovers. We have made drastic changes and this set of players will give any team in the Premier League a run for their money.
“We have released almost the entire squad from last year. I am confident with the strong support shown by the team management, KL will regain their glory days,” said Ismail on Friday.
The City side went through a major overhaul and have only retained Malian winger Modibo Konte.
Ismail, who was with Sime Darby for six years, said he is looking forward to a new challenge with KL, who last won silverware - the FA Cup - in 1999.
“The new KLFA president Datuk Seri Adnan Ikhsan has been supportive. KL have been struggling for a long time and I am up for the challenge to steer them back into the top flight.
“I have done it before with Sime Darby. I am confident with the new players we’ll be able to vie for promotion to the Super League in 2017.”
Kuala Lumpur were once the kingpins of Malaysian football. They made heads turn by winning three consecutive Malaysia Cup titles from 1987 to 1989. They won two league titles (1986 and 1988) and three FA Cup titles (1993, 1994, 1999).
Last year, they were relegated to the third-tier FAM Cup competition after they finished 11th in the 12-team Premier League.
However, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) reinstated KL in the second-tier league following the exclusion of Singapore’s Lions XII from the Super League.
KL have signed up a host of experienced players in Azlan Zainal, Helmi Remeli (from Terengganu), A. Thamil Arasu (Selangor), Badrulzaman Halim, Mohd Fadil Hashim, Isma Alif (Police), Mohd Shoufiq Khusaini, Fahrul Razi Kamaruddin, Abdul Halim Zainal (Sime Darby FC) and Mohd Rasyid Aya (Felda United).
Their foreign signing so far is Australian Mario Karlovic (Armed Forces).