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When a dream move quickly became a nightmare: Madhu breaks his silence on Negeri saga

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The report, which has been read by FourFourTwo, states it is advisable for Madhu “to follow an intensive physiotherapy/rehabilitation for between 4-6 weeks duration and a repeat MRI after 3 months” and the “decision on returning to competitive soccer will depend on the reassessment after 6 weeks”.

“One week later, the club asked me to go collect the report. That’s when I saw it was changed,” Madhu claimed.  

I came earlier at their request, earlier than their other foreigners, sacrificed my pre-season, but that’s what I got. That’s what pissed me off

- Madhu

Madhu’s worst fears were soon confirmed as Dato Haslah informed him of the club’s decision to release him in a later meeting, where Steinebrunner and assistant head coach Asri Ninggal were also present.

“Dato said that he will have to replace me since I’ll be out for three months. I tried to explain that the doctor had changed the report, but it was pointless,” he said.

“He also said I was injured on December 29, which is before my contract started on January 1. But he forgot that I signed the contract on December 8 and I reported for training on the 14th.

“I came earlier at their request, earlier than their other foreigners, sacrificed my pre-season, but that’s what I got. That’s what pissed me off.”

Madhu also felt that he did not get the backing of Steinebrunner when he needed it the most.

“He just sat there and did not even say a word at all during the meeting,” he claimed. “As a player, I listen to you. When you ask me to play, I will play for you.

Madhu felt Steinebrunner didn't support him. Photo: Asiana.my

“He knew I was injured and played through pain, but he did not speak up for me. That’s why I felt so disappointed and betrayed when he kept quiet all the way.”

Datuk Haslah concedes Negeri wanted a second opinion on Madhu’s condition and believes the club “did what we could to accommodate him”, but doesn’t feel the club acted inappropriately.

It wasn’t professional at all. I was waiting and waiting for the official termination letter and to see what compensation terms they’ll give

"There were mixed views by two specialists. I won't question their credentials,” he said. “The first said Madhu would recover in two weeks but we wanted a second opinion.

“We did what we could to accommodate him, including telling Madhu to come back to show us that he was OK after two weeks, but he didn’t recover and the transfer deadline was nearing too.

“It’s unfair of him to now throw accusations. We have accommodated him well and agreed terms for compensation too and would like to move on from this episode."

Yet Madhu says that wasn’t the end of the saga.

While the club announced the termination of Madhu’s contract and his replacement on social media in late January, the Singaporean was left in limbo for almost a month before officially ending his association with the club.

“It wasn’t professional at all. I was waiting and waiting for the official termination letter and to see what compensation terms they’ll give,” he explained.

“Meanwhile I messaged coach (Steinebrunner) daily to ask if I can go to training, he said no. So basically I was doing nothing for a month. It’s a bit sad how they treat players.

Players have to be careful. It’s important to always keep a copy of your contract. I’ve always kept mine since I started playing

“Eventually I managed to sign a mutual termination with them, but the terms weren’t really what I wanted. The compensation was less than six months, but I just took it because I wanted to come back to find a new club.”

Madhu finally returned to Singapore on February 25 and he was cleared to return to action the following day – in stark contrast to the medical review in Malaysia, which claimed he could be out for three months. Steinebrunner stepped down from his position at the end of February and was replaced by Azraai Khor. 

Now deemed medically fit, Madhu is hoping to re-sign with Tampines Rovers, who he played for in the 2017 S.League season.

While this episode has proven to be disappointing, it has done little to quash Madhu’s desire to play abroad should a move comes along. He has also learned from his Malaysian experience.

The defender is in discussions about a return to Tampines. Photo: Weixiang Lim/FFT

“If this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone,” he said. “The doctor changing my report was what jeopardised my contract.

“Players have to be careful. It’s important to always keep a copy of your contract. I’ve always kept mine since I started playing. It’ll come in handy in such situations. It may be safe in Singapore, but that can’t be said for other countries.

“It’s also important to have an agent and thankfully I had one to help me through all these things. It’d be tough if I had to negotiate everything myself.

“But if there’s a chance of another overseas move, I’ll definitely go for it again. Bar whatever off the field, I actually enjoyed playing at Negeri. The players were accommodating and we clicked well together. It’s a pity that I couldn’t complete a full season with them.”

Photos: Negeri Sembilan unless stated