Croatian, Korean and Japanese players complete Tampines’ foreign slots

Last season’s S.League runners-up Tampines Rovers have filled their foreign positions for 2017, adding a trio of young attacking threats to their line-up.

Japanese winger Ryutaro Megumi, 23, Croatian forward Ivan Dzoni, 22, (both seen in above photo) and 25-year-old South Korean utility Son Yong Chan are the three players joining the Stags.

They replace Tampines’ talented trio of Jermaine Pennant, Billy Mehmet and Jordan Webb, who all added touches of class to Akbar Nawas’ side last season, but weren't able to bring the club any silverware.

Akbar is very happy with all of their quality and believes he has got a strong first 11 now

- Tampines team manager

Tampines had originally signed English forward Louis Clark, but he suffered a season-ending injury before he could head to Singapore to start training.

Of the newcomers, Ryutaro is a fresh graduate of Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, while Son turned out for Ceres FC of the Philippines last season.

The pick of the trio could be Dzoni, who represented Croatia at under-17 and under-20 level and also trialled with English Premier League giants Manchester City back in 2011. He joins from Slovakian Club FK Dukla Banska Bystrica.

"Ryutaro will be a replacement for Jordan Webb,” Tampines team manager Desmund Khusnin said. “He can run all day up and down the flanks.

"Akbar is very happy with all of their quality and believes he has got a strong first 11 now."

Another notable addition to Tampines’ ranks is the appointment of the highly decorated Jita Singh as director of football.

Jita adds a wealth of experience to the Stags' ranks

The 67-year-old, who coached the national team from 1979 to 1984, winning the Malaysia Cup in 1980 and a SEA Games silver medal in 1983, returns to Singapore after three years in Malaysia with Frenz United Football Club as their academy director.

Jita told FourFourTwo he will serve as a mentor to the coaches at Tampines and his main target is to get the club to play attractive football at all levels, from the S.League down to the academy.

“I have told the players that they are entertainers, like musicians in a pub,” he said.

“If they play good football, people will come to watch them, because it’s very demoralising to have only 50 people at the stadium. The fans will come only if we play good entertaining football.”

Akbar has also welcomed Jita’s appointment.

A bit of surprise choice to take over from V.Sundramoorthy midway through last season after the latter was appointed national team coach, Akbar won over doubters by freeing up his team’s attacking instincts, chalking up eight straight wins while scoring 28 goals.

“We are on the same page when it comes to wanting to play attractive football,” Akbar said. “I am very happy that he is here.

“Jita comes in with a wealth of experience and he will help the coaching team by pointing out our blind spots.”

Tampines will travel to Terengganu in Malaysia to play two friendly matches against Terengganu FA on January 14 and T-Team on January 16, before leaving for the Philippines for their AFC Champions League preliminary stage clash with FC Global. 

Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo