Japanese midfielder Ito to play for Penang

PENANG: Even before the ink had dried on Japanese midfielder Ito Dan's signature, the FA of Penang (FAP) announced their intention to scout for another foreign player. 

After Ito signed up as Penang's third import yesterday, the FAP vice-president, Datuk Mohd Zain Omar confirmed that the Panthers want a strong central defender as the final piece of the jigsaw for their 2005 Super League campaign. 

“We could start the season with the players available at the moment. But the fact is that we are still short of cover in central defence,” said Zain, who is also the team manager. 

“We have learnt from our previous mistakes when we floundered when a foreign player was either suspended or injured. 

THREE MUSKETEERS: (From left) Ito Dan with Jose Baretto and Viatcheslav Melnikov.

“The FAP are serious in bringing success to Penang this year and everyone can expect a big change in terms of commitment, attitude and the playing style of the team.” 

The 29-year-old Ito, who has already earned the nickname of “Tsunami”, will be the first Japanese to feature in the M-League.  

The former Vegalta Sendai player in the J-League joins Brazilian midfielder Jose Barreto and Russian striker Viatcheslav Melnikov, who were both retained for another season, as Penang's foreign players. 

Fresh from his success in guiding Perlis to a maiden Malaysia Cup victory last month, new coach Norizan Bakar now faces the challenge of delivering the silverware to under-achievers Penang. 

Former Perlis players Tengku Hazman Hassan and Mohd Faizal Esahar also made the short trip south to join Norizan in Penang. 

As a replacement for the erratic goalkeeper Zuraimi Hassan who was dropped at the end of last season, Penang have roped in Azuan Othman from Kelantan SKMK. 

Azuan featured for the national B team in the LG Cup competition in Vietnam in August last year. The other goalkeeper in the squad is rookie Mohd Fazrul Rodzi.  

“Azuan is still inexperienced in terms of exposure in playing in the M-League. But he is learning fast and will be my first choice goalkeeper, for the moment at least,” said Norizan. 

“I have only been with the squad for three weeks now and there are still many areas to improve. But I like what I have seen here so far and I believe that the team will continue to improve if the players can maintain the right attitude.” 

Norizan also refused to set any specific targets for his debut season with Penang. 

“I am not looking for excuses. I cannot promise instant success but I can assure everyone that we will do our best. The initial aim will be to better what Penang achieved in the Super League last year and also to maintain our consistency.” 

Penang finished fifth in the eight-team inaugural Super League and crashed out of the Malaysia Cup in the quarter-final stage to Sabah. 


The Squad

Goalkeepers: Azuan Othman, Mohd Fazrul Rodzi. 

Defenders: Mat Saiful Mohamad, Abdul Aziz Ismail, Chee Wan Hoe, Azizul Ahmad Sabri, Zailani Jaafar, Abdul Rahim Hassan, S.Nanthakumar. 

Midfielders: Nordin Kamis, M.Prakash, Ng Kok Heng, R.Suresh Kumar, Tengku Hazman Raja Hassan, Zulhissyam Jamaluddin, Jose Barreto, Ito Dan. 

Forwards: Viatcheslav Melnikov, M.Nagaraja, Mohd Faizal Esahar, Mohd Saufi Ibrahim, Mohd Farizal Rozali.