In an exclusive interview with FourFourTwo, Brazilian-born Timor Leste international Junior Aparecido touched on various topics, but his biggest fear is he will never represent his nation again...
Sarawak's Junior, better known as Juninho, is trying to make the most of a second spell in Malaysia after his first, with Selangor in 2014, ended prematurely when the Red Giants were concerned by his mid-season form.
Rejuvenated from a spell in Brazil’s top flight, the former Sao Paulo trainee feels he is adjusting to life in Kuching but is growingly frustrated at the Crocs' conversion rate, with their profligacy costing Sarawak a place higher up the standings.
Sarawak have struggled to make an impact in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) since winning the second-tier Malaysia Premier League (MPL) in 2013. Former Malaysian coach K. Rajagobal – the country’s longest serving and most successful coach – was brought in to improve fortunes in Malaysia’s largest state.
Yet it hasn’t gone all their way as Sarawak sit just above the relegation zone, with the half-season mark approaching. Narrow defeats – sans Selangor’s 4-2 home win – suggest the East Malaysians are difficult to defeat but this does not count for much if they do not climb the table.
However, Juninho reckons it is just a matter of time before Sarawak start racking up the points and climbing the MSL standings, saying there couldn’t be anyone better than Rajagobal to mould Sarawak.
“It’s nice here because I have the chance to work with Rajagobal, a good coach in Malaysia. I was happy when they wanted to sign me and it has not been a mistake,” Juninho told FourFourTwo.
“Rajagobal helps the players a lot by giving input, telling us to this and that. He is very hands-on when it comes to tactics and drills it in his players. The young players in the squad like Nur Shamie Iszuan Amin, Rodney Celvin Akwensivie and Shreen Tambi will improve too under Rajagobal."
The priority for most clubs at the moment, is to qualify for the Malaysia Cup, which has a new qualification format.
As opposed to the previous season where the final league standings were used to determine who participated in the historic competition, the top 11 MSL teams at mid-season will compete in the Malaysia Cup instead.
Juninho notes Sarawak are treading dangerously as they sit among the bottom three in the 12-team MSL, but he was confident Sarawak will not be the last-placed team come May 18.
“I feel we are growing as a team and playing better football, surely," he said. "We create chances but can’t seem to take them. Our finishing must improve. Some games we lost because our opponents capitalised on their chances while we wasted ours.
“We worked on some aspects during the International break (March) and when we had a good gap between matches this month, so it’s time that gets us results we deserve,” said Juninho, who has scored two and made four assists this season already.