Balestier’s upset 2013 League Cup Winners: Where are they now?
Topping their group after a 2-1 win over Brunei DPMM and a 2-2 draw against Warriors FC, the Tigers reached the quarter-finals where they beat Tampines Rovers 4-3 on penalties after a 3-3 draw in 120 minutes.
The Toa Payoh-based club then edged Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 in the semis, before thumping DPMM 4-0 in the final to win the trophy.
So where are those players that featured in that year’s final and the coach that inspired that triumph?
Joining the club from the now-defunct Gombak United, Zaiful enjoyed a dreamlike first season at the club.
The 1.74m custodian who possesses remarkable reflexes subsequently took over the Balestier captaincy after Paul Cunningham’s departure and helped them to punch above their weight by winning the Singapore Cup the following year in 2014.
Zaiful made history in 2016 by making his 100th consecutive start for the Tigers and is now into his fifth season at the club.
The 29-year-old is the only member from the class of 2013 who is still at the club.
Capable of playing either as a right-back or a centre-back, the aggressive defender was a valuable member of the squad and he went on to feature in the club’s 2014 Singapore Cup triumph, as well as Balestier’s run to the League Cup final in 2015.
He subsequently left for Hougang United in the 2016 season and made regular first-team appearances.
However, an unfortunate anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in the second half of the year put paid to his season and he was not retained by the Cheetahs.
Recovering well from the ACL setback, the 31-year-old is now waiting for offers to return to the S.League.
The Nigerian-born defender was undoubtedly one of the best foreigners in the S.League at that time and he was actually touted as a good candidate for the Foreign Talent Scheme (FTS) to be fast-tracked for citizenship.
However, the 2013 season proved to be his last season in Singapore as he left to join Myanmar’s Nay Pyi Taw the following year.
The strong and athletic centre-back was part of the Nay Pyi Taw side that denied Tampines progress into the 2014 AFC Cup knockout stages after a 1-0 win at Jalan Besar.
He spent three years at the club, before being released at the end of last season. The 31-year-old is now a free agent.