Zaiful hoping for another Balestier S.League title tilt
It was so near yet so far for the unfancied Tigers last term as they mounted a surprise challenge for the trophy but faltered with just a few games left to go.
They eventually finished fourth – eight points adrift of winners Brunei DPMM – though the accomplishment whet skipper Zaiful’s appetite and left the goalkeeper hungry for more in the upcoming season.
“Obviously we want to have a go at the title again,” he told FourFourTwo. “Last year, we were almost there but did not get it in the end.
“I thought we drew too many games, we had eight (draws) in total. That’s too many in my opinion; if we had converted some of them into wins, who knows if we would have been able to catch up with DPMM to win it (the title)?”
While teams like Tampines Rovers and Geylang International have been making waves in the off-season with their big-name signings, Balestier have quietly gone about their business instead.
The foreign trio of Emir Lotinac, Robert Pericic and Miroslav Kristic have been retained along with the likes of locals Zaiful, Ho Wai Loon and Fadhil Noh.
Balestier welcomed a few new faces including former Courts Young Lions defender Sheikh Abdul Hadi, ex-LionsXII forward Syafiq Zainal and the experienced Jamil Ali from Tampines Rovers, although the side arguably cannot boast of having made a marquee signing.
Nevertheless, Zaiful still believes they have enough quality and strength in depth to achieve yet another good campaign.
“It was the same last year and we also had a squad of around 16 to 17 players,” said the 28-year-old.
“The only difference is that we had a bit more defensive cover and less attackers last year, while it looks like the opposite this year.
“The good thing about having a small squad is that everyone gets the opportunity to play and prove themselves. In any case, we have the Prime League players so there should be enough cover for us.
“I just hope everyone stays fit and plays together as a team and family to achieve something for Balestier Khalsa Football Club.”
Marko Kraljevic’s side will also be involved in the AFC Cup for the second successive year courtesy of their finish as the second-highest local team in the competition last year – a challenge that Zaiful is truly relishing.
“For a club like Balestier to achieve an AFC Cup spot is amazing and a big bonus for us players,” the custodian, who has represented the club since 2013, concluded.
“It allows us to play at the highest level and these foreign opponents will increase our experience. That will help us when we play against the other S.League teams so I’m definitely looking forward to this.
“I’m willing to push to help the team achieve something in both the league and the AFC Cup.”
Photo: Football Association of Singapore