PETALING JAYA: Sabah are banking on the man nicknamed “Dancing Shoes” to shimmy around opposing defenders in this season’s Super League.
The Rhinos have confirmed the signing of Namibian international Petrus Shitembi, who is set to play in the Asia for the first time after having played for various African clubs since 2010.
Shitembi was an instant hit when Sabah coach Kurniawan Dwi Yulianto saw footages of the 27-year-old playing for his country in last year’s African Nations Cup and also for his former club in Zambia – Lusaka Dynamos.
And when Shitembi showcased his class in training, Indonesian Kurniawan instantly decided to make him the main man in Sabah’s midfield.
“Shitembi is a dynamic attacking midfielder. He is left-footed, and in Africa, he is known for his creative plays, ” said Kurniawan.
“But what impressed me about him is his willingness to drop down and defend. For my game, I need a player who can attack and defend as well.
“And he fulfils that role pretty well. He presses forward well and will surely entertain the Sabah fans. To me, he will be an important player for Shitembi has played for his country 65 times and has scored four goals. Some of the clubs that he had played for are South African Premier League clubs AmaZulu and Stellenbosch, Ghana Premier League club Ashanti Gold and Namibia Premier League club Tura Magic.
The nickname “Dancing Shoes” was given by the fans in South Africa as he dazzled the crowd with his silky skills and ability to break open defences with his mazy dribbling.
He looks set to play in the middle with Azzizan Nordin and Sabri Sahar. His signing completes Sabah’s line-up for the new season as they have also acquired Thai-German winger Dennis Buschening, Puerto Rican international striker Hector Ramos, leftback Zubir Azmi and goalkeeper Wan Azraie Wan Teh.
Kurniawan is glad that the line-up for the new season has been settled and he is looking forward to getting the players to gel in the next three weeks.
The team flew to Surabaya yesterday and are down to play last year’s Indonesian League One runners-up Persebaya Surabaya at the Gelora Bung Tomo Stadium today.
“We have played two friendlies in the Philippines, and now we will head to Indonesia for an important game.
“I want the players to learn from the match. Persebaya are one of the biggest clubs in Indonesia. I will look to assess our tactics and game plan, the players will have to use this opportunity to build their mental strength. They need to know what it feels like to play in front of a fervent crowd.
“Our first Super League game is an away match against Police at the Cheras Football Stadium on March 1. We have been playing some away matches for our friendlies because I want the boys to get used to that feeling.”
When asked how does it feel like to coach the team, after joining them six weeks ago, Kurniawan said he is happy with the commitment shown by the boys.
“I have said that they are fighters and fighters are always willing to learn. The friendlies have given me a picture of what we need to improve on. We will get better before the season opener.”