16th July, 2012
COINCIDENTAL MEETING … Alijus (2nd left) met up with the FA Assistant Secretary General II Tuan Hj Nizam Datuk Seri Panglima Abu Bakar Titingan upon their arrival at the airport yesterday.
KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s first ever gold medal in the football event at the Malaysia Games on Saturday was just the right tonic to spur the Rhinos on in avoiding the drop as they will be involved in a relegation playoff to be held in Melaka on Tuesday.
The playoff will be played on a knockout system involving three other teams Sarawak, Kedah and Premier League runners up Pahang.
Sarawak, Kedah and Sabah finished in 10th, 11th and 12th respectively in the just-concluded Super League 2012.
Sabah will face Kedah while Sarawak take on Pahang on Tuesday with the winners pitting against each other for a place in the Super League 2013 on Thursday.
The Sabah-Kedah tie will be played at the Hang Tuah Stadium while Sarawak-Pahang clash at the Hang Jebat Stadium. Both matches will kick off at 8.45pm.
Alijus Hj Sipil hoped that their historical Sukma feat can lead to better things for Sabah football.
“We hope and pray we will remain in the Super League next season,” the Sabah FA Secretary General said when met upon his arrival from Pahang at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport yesterday.
Alijus, who was also the team manager for the Sukma squad added, “as long as they have the will to do it, our chances of winning this battle will be brighter.”
Although, it has not been a good season, Alijus said their is still time for the players to make amends and try to stay in the country’s top league.
On Sabah’s Sukma triumph, he said: “It is a historical feat for us. This was our first ever gold medal in Sukma after 22 years. It was a great effort from everybody, especially the players.”
“I would like to thank everyone for the effort they have given to the team, including the Youth and Sports Ministry, who has been very supportive of the team.
“I would also like to note that the Sabah Satellite Centre, which is under the National Sports Institute, has been pretty helpful, and I think their efforts in the team’s recovery have played a big role for the team.
“The work they have done helped our players to have a fast recovery, and I hope for the next Sukma, they should be a part of our State contingent.
“I think Sabah is the only State to have brought along their ISN officials, which I think would be a great help to the athletes, including the football team.
Alijus also revealed that the State winning squad will be receiving incentives for their gold medal feat.
“Under the State Sports Council, they are entitled to RM1000 each. However, we are thinking of topping that up,” said Alijus, adding that they are contemplating to make it the same amount as an individual gold medal winner receive, which is RM3000.
Alijus said the Sukma squad, who will be returning home today, will receive their incentive during a gala dinner tonight.
Sabah trounced Perak 3-0 in extra time to take the gold medal. Some of the players will feature for the Sabah Selection when they take on the visiting Queens Park Rangers in a friendly game at the Likas Stadium tomorrow night.