Azkals star Mark Hartmann joins Sarawak from Geylang International

After a successful stint in the S.League with Geylang International, Philippines international Mark Hartmann has agreed to join Sarawak FA in the Malaysian Super League. 

Having joined the Eagles in mid-season, Hartmann quickly established himself as one of the top forwards in Singapore, scorching the net eight times in just 11 outings. Despite his good form for Geylang, the S.League side decided to release him due to budget constraints.

Hartmann, 24, returned to Manila immediately and linked up with Thomas Dooley’s Azkals for the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup, but the tournament co-hosts made a disappointing group stage exit.

A trial was immediately set up and the giant forward was in Kuching a fortnight ago, training under the watchful eyes of head coach David Usop.

This Sarawak move was made possible by a few kind people from Singapore and since arriving in Sarawak, the club officials, coaches and everyone has been very good to me. They made me feel very welcomed and it was a no-brainer

The club decided to make a contract offer and Hartmann returned to Kuching last weekend to complete his medical and put pen to paper on a season-long contract, becoming the second player from Philippines side Global FC to join a top-tier Malaysian club, following Omid Nazari's move to Melaka United in November.

“It was my first shot at proving myself outside of the Philippines and joining Geylang was one of the best decisions I could have made,” Hartmann told FourFourTwo.

“It allowed me the opportunity to test myself in one of Southeast Asia’s best competitions and scoring those goals in the S.League helped put my name across the region.

“This Sarawak move was made possible by a few kind people from Singapore and since arriving in Sarawak, the club officials, coaches and everyone has been very good to me. They made me feel very welcomed and it was a no-brainer.

“There were offers from Thailand and the Philippines but Sarawak is where I’ve decided to sign with for next season. The Thai league is strong but my focus is on this club and maybe who knows, I could go on and play for a Thai club in future.”

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While the Azkals star is confident of his own abilities, he knows that the pressure on him as a Filipino in the MSL will be enormous, and he intends to give everything he’s got to make things work.

“Joining any club as a foreign signing is not as fun as it seems. You have the responsibility to show that you are good enough and to repay the club’s faith in you,” the former Southampton trainee added.

“Sarawak will be the third Southeast Asian country I’ve played in and just like the previous challenges, this will be another big test to do well in a strong competition like the Malaysian Super League.”

The Crocs finished in eighth place this season and will be keen for a better showing with Hartmann and Liberian international defender Teah Dennis Jr whose contract has been renewed for the 2017 season.

Hartmann will join the rest of his Sarawak teammates as they head to Perth, Australia later today for a training tour.

Main Photo: Mark Hartmann