Balestier backs novel recruiting ploy

The Tigers' online job advert might have just paid off, with at least 20 hopeful applicants over three days.

Balestier Khalsa's unusual move of posting an online job advertisement last Wednesday was not a desperate ploy to sign players, general manager Cheng Tim Nee has clarified.

Last year's RHB Singapore Cup winners were looking for six new players on JobsBank, a public job portal which is managed by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), in a listing that ended on January 2.

This drew flak from certain members of the Singapore football fraternity, claiming that it was indicative of how far the S.League had fallen from its glory days.

The Tigers were keen to dismiss such notions, however.

"This is not a desperate measure," Cheng told FourFourTwo.

"We just want to test how the market out there is like. Everyone knows that the talent pool in Singapore is small and there is a shortage of players available.

"This is a problem which not only Balestier is facing, even LionsXII have issues getting enough players."

This novel strategy is a method which Cheng believes is in line with the Football Association of Singapore’s strategy of opening up opportunities to more budding footballers.

"We’re doing this for the national cause as well," he said.

"The FA is always encouraging us to do outreach through things like school tournaments and social leagues.

"Everyone wants to play football but some of them are unsure of what channels to go through to impress selectors.

"Who knows, we might discover a star through this!”

Balestier are led by popular player-turned-coach Marko Kraljevic. Photo: FAS

Cheng also readily answered queries on the job requirements listed on JobsBank, which stated that interested applicants need to pass to the 2.4km fitness test within 10 minutes (the passing mark this season has been lowered to 9 minutes 45 seconds) as well as being versatile enough to play in various positions.

"If you have noticed, the requirements are quite generic," he said.

“We did not specify the age or nationality or playing position – in short, we’re looking at all possible options, not just looking at players for the S.League.

"If the player is a good young prospect, we can still select him for our Prime League squad.”

According to Cheng, there were a total of 22 applicants over the last couple of days – including a foreign player who had previously plied his trade in the UK.

The youngest applicant is a 19-year-old Prime League player who was released by another S.League club, while the oldest is a player in his mid-20s, whose highest playing experience was in the National Football League (NFL).

These players will be called up for trials in the upcoming weeks, with head coach Marko Kraljevic and his technical team running the rule over the selection process.

Cheng revealed that the club would consider extending this recruitment strategy to the mid-season transfer window if it proved to be effective.

So far the club has signed a total of 12 local players, retaining key players in goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam, Zulkiffli Hassim and Poh Yi Feng while signing Hanafi Salleh and Fadhil Noh from Tanjong Pagar United and Woodlands Wellington respectively.

Former LionsXII player Ignatius Ang is also set to put pen to paper in the next few days, after training with the squad for the past couple of weeks.

Meanwhile only centre-back Emir Lotinac is retained from their foreign legion last season, with the likes of Paul Cunningham, Park Kang-Jin, Kim Minho and Goran Ljubojevic all released.

The Tigers have already started pre-season training and are in the midst of arranging a series of friendlies to tune up to the upcoming 2015 season, during which they will also participate in the AFC Cup for the first time.