A Rhino at heart – Paunovic’s so happy in Sabah he can’t hide it

PETALING JAYA: For Serbian footballer Rodoljub Paunovic, home is Sabah.

The former FK Kolubara player has been one of the key strikers for the Rhinos since 2017 and he came to prominence last season when he helped them win the Premier League.

The 34-year-old turned hero for Sabah when he scored 13 goals and provided six assists to help them get into the Super League after eight years and he has promised to take Sabah to greater heights in the ongoing league, which has been stopped temporarily due to Covid-19.

“I know that I’m an import player but from the first day when I came to Sabah, I just felt like I was born here, ” said Pauvonic.

“All the years here have been amazing. The players treat me like I’ve known them for a long time, so I must thank them for making me a part of the team.

“Jelius Ating was the coach when I came here in May three years ago. He explained to me everything about the system, so I tried to adapt.

“We started to build our team together and in 2018, we almost reached the Malaysia Cup final. “Last year, our professional ways brought us the league title.”

This season, Sabah have collected five points from four games, and for Paunovic, that is a satisfying start.

“The Super League is on a different level than the Premier League for sure. So, almost every day, I try to encourage our team to be more professional and work hard, ” he said.

“Right now, we can’t have serious training sessions because of Covid-19. We try to keep our fitness at home and relook into our techniques and tactics.

“I hope to continue my scoring momentum and also assists. The goal is to stay in the top five this season, ” he said.

Although football is in his mind, Paunovic is also focused on giving his family a sense of security. He is staying in Kota Kinabalu with his wife, seven-month old son and mother-in-law.

“I’m concerned with the safety of my son and family, and also the community here but I know that all of us are strong and we can win this ‘game’ by ‘three points’. I also want to thank all the frontliners - they are the real heroes, ” he added.

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