Jamil Ali reverses retirement decision to join Balestier

Experienced campaigner Jamil Ali was about to call time on his 14-year professional career before Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic convinced him to stay for another year.

Jamil had given serious thought to retiring from the game upon being released by Tampines Rovers, where he had spent the past six seasons.

However a call from Kraljevic persuaded the 31-year-old to continue on, with the opportunity to link up with one of the best coaches in Singapore proving too irresistible.

Under the tutelage of the German-born Croatian, Balestier have punched above their weight for the past two seasons – winning the Singapore Cup in 2014 and finishing in the top four and securing a place in the League Cup final last year.

“I was thinking of retiring halfway through last year because I wasn’t feeling good about not playing much,” said Jamil before his side’s training session at Toa Payoh Stadium on Tuesday evening.

“But I have heard about how good a coach Marko is and seen for myself over the last two years. As a player, I need to be motivated and to be with a coach that understands me better.

“He told me he will give me a chance to play so I’m happy with that. Then I discussed it with my wife and I thought why not give it a try and play for one more year?”

Kraljevic himself was delighted with Jamil’s signing and believes he is a player with the ability to turn a game on its head.

“He’s one of the best players in the league with his experience,” said the 50-year-old. “Last year when we were down in games, we don’t have such a player to turn it around.

“If he and the another new signing Fazli Ayob can deliver good crosses, our forwards (Robert Pericic and Miroslav Kristic) will surely create danger.”

Jamil, who made his S.League debut in 2001, has won silverware with teams like SAFFC (now Warriors FC) and Tampines Rovers.  Now he hopes to gel with his teammates and lend his big-match experience whenever he can.

“I’ve been quite long in this football line so it’s nothing new to me,” he said. “I’ve played in the AFC Cup with Warriors and Tampines, so I know the situation and the tiredness.

“Maybe that’s the part where I can share with the players and guide them on how to relax and recover. Football is all about pressure and coping with it.”

Photo courtesy of S.League