Gold medal mission for Sabah footballers

 

By FRANCIS XAVIER

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah football team has been given a tall order when they take part in the 19th Malaysia Games (Sukma) in Perak from September 14-22.

Yesterday, team manager Benedict Asmat made his intentions clear of wanting the team to go for the gold medal. “Our target is to try to win the gold medal,” he said, when contacted yesterday.

Benedict has every reason for being a little ambitious.

His squad will be spearheaded by five players, who are registered with the senior side.

Hamran Peter in particular has been doing relatively well with the senior side where he featured for the first team for the Jelius Ating-coached side in the Malaysia Cup campaign.

And Benedict is thankful to Sabah Rhinos team manager Datuk Juil Nuatim and head coach Jelius for releasing the five players and to be part of the Sukma squad.

The other four, goalkeeper Mohd Sakri Masri, defender Evan Wensley Wenceslaus and midfielders Mohd Aidil Safee and Stanley Sulong have been regular faces with the state Under-21 side.

Despite the presence of the five, Benedict still predicts it is going to be one bumpy road to glory for his side. For that reason, he wants the team to stick together as one big family.

“We have to play as a big team. If we can do that, then we will stand a good chance of doing well,” Benedict said.

“Our only minor setback is that we have a few regular players still carrying injuries, but I hope they will be okay and play some part for the team during the Games,” he said referring to defenders Kelvin Pengiran, Muhammad Zaki Safri and Eddey Ladius.

“We also have one player, Gerald Gadit, still with the national Under-19 team. He is certain to miss our group matches. But if we make it into the knockout stage, he may be around by then.

Benedict said the least he hopes for is for the team to better their previous outing (in the Games).

In the last edition of the country’s biggest multi-sports event in Sarawak in 2016, they won a bronze. Sabah has been drawn in Group C along with Melaka and Penang.

They need to make a top-two finish to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Group A comprises defending gold medal winners, Perak, Sarawak, Negeri Sembilan and Perlis. Federal Territory, Johor and Terengganu make up Group B, while Pahang, Kedah, Kelantan and Selangor are in Group D.

Sabah will open their campaign by taking on Melaka on September 9 at the Parit Buntar Mini Stadium in an 8.45pm clash, before taking on Penang at the same venue and time on September 13.

If they make the quarters, they will take on any of the top two teams from Group D on September 15. The semi-finals have been slated for September 17 while the gold and bronze medal matches will be played on September 19.

For the record, Sabah won their first ever Sukma gold in the football event at the Pahang Sukma in 2012.

 
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New Sabah Times