DPMM want Cup win to salvage season

DPMM coach Kean wants a record fourth triumph to salvage average season

FINAL

BRUNEI DPMM v 
ALBIREX NIIGATA

(Tonight, 7.45pm, StarHub TV Ch 112/205 & 76.25MHz)

It has been a trying year for Brunei DPMM.

But, tonight, they can go some way towards salvaging their season.

Their best, and perhaps only chance of silverware will come when they take on Albirex Niigata in The New Paper League Cup final at Jalan Besar Stadium.

The defending Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League champions have endured a troubled campaign.

A massive 16-point gap stands between them and league leaders Albirex.

With eight matches left to play, it now looks virtually impossible to retain their title.

The Bruneian outfit are also out of the RHB Singapore Cup, meaning tonight's match may represent their only hope of not finishing the season empty-handed.

All this while, DPMM coach Steve Kean (left) has insisted that they will not give up on their title defence until it is mathematically impossible, although he does admit victory at Jalan Besar Stadium tonight could prove crucial on many levels.

"That's the great thing about football," he told The New Paper yesterday. "You can have a bad spell, but there will always be another game around the corner.

"We've still got this competition to play for and, hopefully, we can win the final and then go on to win most, if not all, of our games in the league.

"That would also be great for our confidence going into next season.

DPMM are the most successful side in the League Cup.

Captain Rosmin Kamis, who played a part in the club's three previous triumphs in 2009, 2012 and 2014, is well aware of the task at hand, given Albirex have both the best attacking and defensive record in the S.League.

But the 35-year-old is also confident of an upset if they stick to their plan.

He said: "Including this season, we've reached the League Cup final five times and we've won three of those.

"I don't think there's any extra pressure on us… the important thing is just to win it.

"Everybody is well prepared and looking sharp and we're looking forward to the final.

"Albirex are a good team but, if we play to the coach's instructions, we know we have every chance to score and then it's down to how well we defend."

Most teams have struggled to cope with Albirex's quick-passing style of football this season, including DPMM.

IMPROVEMENT

Kean's men have lost both their meetings against the Japanese outfit, but the DPMM coach feels his side have improved significantly since.

"In this competition, we've shown we're a bit more stubborn now in not giving chances to our opposition," said the Scot.

"It's no secret that Albirex like to play from the back so we'll be trying to engage them high up the pitch.

"If we can win the ball, then we're immediately on the attack.

"Certainly, if we do get pinned back, we've Rafa (Ramazotti) to hold the ball up and players like Adi Said and Paulo Sergio who have plenty of pace, so we're also very dangerous on the break.

"There's no point going all the way to the final and not win it because no one remembers the losing finalists.

"My final message to the boys would be to go out there and become the first team to win it four times."

King Kawata key to White Swans' chances

Former winger-turned-striker Kawata eyes top-scorer honours

SUPER SWAN: Atsushi Kawata (above) has scored 17 goals in all competitions this season.

He hollered at Shuto Inaba, pointing to the exact spot where he wanted the ball to be played before leaping like a salmon to outjump his marker, who happened to be the 1.91-metre tall Kazuki Mine, and thumped his header into the back of the net with unerring precision.

Albirex Niigata's 1.75-metre tall Atsushi Kawata drew applause and cheers of his teammates and coaches with his well-taken goal during the team's training session at the Jurong East Stadium yesterday.

More importantly, the 24-year-old highlighted his importance to the White Swans' Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League season so far with that one play.

The Hannan University graduate showed glimpses of his quality last year, playing as a winger, but could manage only 11 goals in all competitions during his debut campaign.

But Kawata has caught the attention with his new role up front this year, plundering an impressive 12 goals in the league to lead the scoring charts and has 17 in all competitions, including a stunning hat-trick against Tampines Rovers in The New Paper League Cup semi-final last week.

And he is eager to continue his fine vein of form when Albirex take on Brunei DPMM in the final of the League Cup tonight.

"As a team, we have confidence that we can win the game tomorrow," he told The New Paper.

"We know they will be difficult opponents and a win will surely give us more confidence and, personally, I am aiming to score so that I can help my team to win.

"Many people will be expecting us to defend our title tomorrow and we want to show them that we are a good team and we can do just that."

Possessing a lethal combination of speed, strength, aerial prowess, technique and an uncanny ability to find the back of the net, Kawata has been a nightmare for opposing defenders and goalkeepers.

PLAUDITS

Kawata, however, believes his teammates are the ones who should be receiving the plaudits for his performances this season.

"Basically, the team we had last year were more defensive compared to this year's team which have more offensive players," he said.

"This has helped me to score more goals than last year, because we have good wingers who can deliver accurate crosses and passes which make it easier for me to score.

The Osaka native also explained that he will not be entirely satisfied with winning an unprecedented quadruple, as the striker also has his sights set on the Golden Boot.

"Of course, my main priority is to make sure that I help my team win in every match that we play," he said.

"But I am also looking to end the season as the top scorer and score in as many games as I can." 
- G BUVANKUMAAR

Albirex are all about style and substance

Albirex coach promises Japanese brand of football will be on show in tonight's final

Financial Secretary Johnt Sang, on his motive for wanting the top post. Outgoing Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang, on his willingness to stand for election. “It is important to win, but it is also important to play well and dominate games.” — Albirex coach Naoki Naruo, on his team (above) playing the Japanese way

FINAL

BRUNEI DPMM FC v ALBIREX NIIGATA

(Tonight, 7.45pm, StarHub TV Ch 112/205 & 76.25MHz)

At the beginning of the season, few thought they could replicate the stellar form that saw them clinch a cup double last year.

A change in head coach, loss of key players and the numerous new additions seemed to suggest that they would need more time for things to click on the pitch.

But fast forward five months and Albirex Niigata have emphatically proven their detractors wrong.

The White Swans, who lost instrumental players such as Itsuki Yamada, Takahiro Saito, Rion Taki, Shun Inaba, Hikaru Mizuno and reigning S.League Player of the Year Fumiya Kogure before the season kicked off, are now gunning for an unprecedented Quadruple.

They already have the Community Shield under their belt, after overcoming Brunei DPMM 3-2 at the start of the term.

They are also in the semi-finals of the RHB Singapore Cup and hold a four-point lead at the top of the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League table.

Tonight, they will shift their focus to The New Paper League Cup final at the Jalan Besar Stadium, where they will attempt to beat DPMM and win the trophy for the second year running.

Albirex coach Naoki Naruo is expecting a stern test for his players though.

Above: Albirex coach Naoki Naruo

"DPMM are a team that defend well and are very strong on the counter-attack," he said, after his team's training session at the Jurong East Stadium yesterday.

"So I hope that we can hold and move the ball well, so that we don't suffer from their counter-attacks and I also hope that we can get the first goal, which will be very important in deciding the outcome of the match."

MORALE BOOST

The 41-year-old also believes that if his charges win, it will spur them on for the remainder of their campaign.

"When the league action resumes (next week), our first match will also be against DPMM," he said. "So, it will be a big morale boost for us if we win tomorrow, for the rest of the S.League season and also for the Singapore Cup."

Naruo first coached Albirex in 2009, but success didn't come instantly, as his team finished in seventh place.

He returned to Japan a year later, coaching Grulla Morioka for five years, during which he masterminded the club's rise from the semi-professional Tohoku Soccer League to the J3 League.

He then came back to Singapore this season to take over from Tatsuya Okuyama, who guided Albirex through their best campaign in their 12 years of existence, winning the TNP League Cup and RHB Singapore Cup.

While Naruo admitted that there is pressure on him to reproduce the success of his predecessor, his experience at Morioka helped him deal with those expectations.

"After returning to Singapore, I feel I have unfinished business," he said.

"I want to show fans here the Japanese style of football.

"It is important to win, but it is also important to play well and dominate games .

"I want to lead the team to do even better than last season."


THEIR STRENGTHS

1 ATTACKING THREAT

Last year, they were heavily reliant on Atsushi Kawata for goals but, this season, Tatsuro Inui (above) has stepped up with 11 goals.

2 WING PROWESS

Albirex's wingbacks, especially Naofumi Tanaka on the left, bomb forward at every opportunity, which could cause DPMM real problems if their attacking players do not help out with the defence.

3 INDIVIDUAL BRILLIANCE

In a tight game like a final, one moment of magic could make the difference and Kawata, Inui and Kento Nagasaki are all capable of doing just that.


THEIR WEAKNESSES

1 MISSING ANCHORMAN

Much of Albirex's success this season has been down to the midfield triangle of Nagasaki, Shuto Inaba and Masaya Jitozono (above), but the latter's suspension could work in DPMM's favour.

2 TINKERING

Albirex coach Naoki Naruo has not been afraid to tinker with his squad, with Kawata even having been deployed as a wingback, but you get the feeling he could be a wrong move away from a disaster.

3 LACK OF BENCH OPTIONS

It is no secret that Naruo mainly works around 14 main players.

Should Plan A not work tonight, he could struggle to come up with alternatives from the bench.

If attack happens here, S'poreans will behave rationally: Religious leaders

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Singaporean in Munich: 'I'm scared to wear my tudung in public'

S'porean Muslim students in Munich describe fear 
and confusion following gun attack at mall last Friday

DEADLY: A man praying beside flowers laid in front of the Munich shopping mall where the shooting rampage started.
CALM BEFORE STORM: Miss Hanim Zaini (second from left), Miss Maahirah Mohammed (third from left) and Mrs Norliza Asisi Maurer (fifth from left) on the day of the Munich attack.

Despite the recent terror attacks in Europe and the increasing level of hostility towards Muslims, Singaporean student Maahirah Mohammed has never been afraid to put on her tudung in public.

That is until last Friday, when an attack happened in Munich, Germany, where she is studying.

A teenage gunman opened fire at the Olympia shopping centre, killing nine people.

The mall is just five minutes by train from the flat where Miss Maahirah, 18, and her cousin, Miss Hanim Zaini, 18, have been living for the last 15 months.

Thankfully, they were on a picnic in the outskirts of the city with a group of friends when the shooting happened at around 6pm (midnight, Singapore time).

Miss Maahirah told The New Paper in a phone interview on Tuesday that she found out about the incident on Facebook as she was leaving the picnic.

She said: "I was quite shocked... because Munich is usually a very safe place. I kept thinking, 'An attack? Here in Munich?'"

The shooting resulted in a shutdown of the city's public transport system, leaving thousands stranded in the streets.

Mrs Norliza Asisi Maurer, 53, a fellow Singaporean at the picnic, dropped the cousins off at a tram station about 10 stops away from their flat, unaware that the trams were not running.

Miss Maahirah described the situation as confusing at first, and then gradually becoming more chaotic and tense as time passed.

"The streets were lined with people, and you could feel everyone's frustration and anxiety," she said.

TNP GRAPHIC: KELVIN CHAN

There were also rumours that two other shooters were on the run, which added to the girls' stress and paranoia.

The cousins, who both wear the tudung, were trying to figure out how to get home when an old man started yelling as he walked past them.

"He was pointing at us and shouting in our faces in German about 'another terrorist attack again', and cursing refugees and Islam," said Miss Hanim.

The man walked away after his outburst and the girls quickly walked in the opposite direction.

"It was over very quickly, but we were so shocked and embarrassed as his voice was louder than the (din of the) crowd, so everyone was looking at us," Miss Maahirah added.

The cousins said this was the second time they had been on the receiving end of anti-Islam sentiments.

Last year, while Miss Hanim was waiting at a traffic light junction, a woman made a rude gesture at her from across the street and called out anti-Islam comments.

Miss Maahirah said the shooting was the first time something had happened in Munich so now they are more concerned about their safety.

She said: "I'm scared of wearing my tudung out in public after getting yelled at like that."

Unable to get home after the attack, the teens called Mrs Maurer, who is married to a German national and has been living in Munich for over 20 years. About half an hour later, she picked them up in her car.

ROADBLOCKS

But the journey home was not over.

The roads to their residential area had roadblocks, so they went to Mrs Maurer's home, which was a 10-minute drive away from the tram station.

Miss Maahirah and Miss Hanim ended up spending the night there as public transport was unavailable throughout the night. Services only resumed at 4am so the girls returned home the next day.

Mrs Maurer, who helps her husband run a software company, said: "The locals here are usually very tolerant, and it's very unfortunate that the girls were on the receiving end of someone's frustrations."

Miss Hanim's family, who live in Saudi Arabia, frantically tried to reach her when they read about the shooting.

Her sister, Ms Yasmin Zaini, 22, told TNP: "We had just completed our umrah pilgrimage in Mecca and news of the shooting sent us into panic mode.

"We couldn't reach my sister because her phone was off, but we found out that she was safe from Maahirah just a while later."

While Miss Maahirah thinks that Munich is still a safe city, much like Singapore, she admitted she would not worry about her safety if such an attack happened in Singapore.

She said: "I don't think Singaporeans would be hostile or look at us any differently."

He planned to set up Islamic state here

S'porean detained under ISA for promoting ISIS, radicalising others

ARRESTED: Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff (carrying child) posing with a black flag that is commonly used by ISIS fighters.
ARRESTED: Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff (above)

An Australian-based Singaporean who portrayed himself as a social activist has been arrested for promoting terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and armed jihad.

Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff, 44, was arrested this month while visiting Singapore, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday.

He has been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for two years.

He is accused of using online platforms to propagate and spread his radical messages - which include glorifying ISIS and their violent actions and exhorting Muslims to take up arms in places like the Middle East, Palestinian territories, Myanmar and the Philippines.

At least two other Singaporeans were radicalised as a result.

One of them, Singaporean businessman Mohamed Saiddhin Abdullah, 33, identified Zulfikar, who was his Facebook friend, as the person who had influenced him to support ISIS. (See report, right.)

The other person, Muhammad Shamin Mohamed Sidik, 29, was detained under the ISA last year for terrorism-related activities.

Zulfikar had also planned to hold training programmes to persuade young Singaporeans to join his extremist agenda of replacing Singapore's secular, democratic system with an Islamic state, by violence if necessary, said the MHA.

Zulfikar is no stranger to controversy.

He rose to prominence in 2002 after he campaigned for the authorities to allow four Muslim girls to wear Islamic headscarves, or tudung, to school.

In May that year, Zulfikar was charged with trespassing at Tanglin police station. He had refused to leave the station after there was an illegal May Day rally at the Istana.

Zulfikar, a married father of six, was the former head of Muslim website Fateha, which was eventually shut down.

In 2002, he fled to Australia amid a police probe into a criminal defamation case for three articles that were posted on the Fateha website.

Zulfikar also made the news in 2014 as an active member of the Wear White movement, which opposes homosexuality and the gay rights event Pink Dot.

COMMENTARY

The Straits Times, which published Zulfikar's commentary on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in May this year, reported that he is a final-year PhD candidate at La Trobe University in Melbourne who researches International Institutionalism with a focus on Asean.

The MHA said Zulfikar was influenced as early as 2001 by jihadi-related material and was supportive of terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the Jemaah Islamiah.

In Australia, he continued to pursue radical ideology by joining the hard-line Hizbut Tahrir organisation.

He was also influenced by the teachings of a cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, who spread his extremist views online and was killed by a US-led drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

Like Awlaki, - a US-born Al-Qaeda leader - Zulfikar had an online presence and was active on Facebook and Twitter.

He posted on a variety of subjects from his research to politics, but several of his Facebook posts in 2014 showed his radical side.

His last Facebook post was on June 25, where he shared a video on atheism.

The MHA release stated: "At times he has tried to hide his real motivations by putting out moderate-sounding views.

"But in reality, he believes in the use of violence to overthrow the democratic system of government and the imposition of an Islamic caliphate."

While in Australia, Zulfikar set up an online group called Al-Makhazin in 2013 and a Facebook page called Al-Makhazin Singapore.

The MHA said: "Zulfikar has admitted that he had an ulterior motive for setting up Al-Makhazin Singapore, which he used as a platform to agitate on Muslim issues in Singapore and attack some Singaporean Muslims who did not share his views.

"His real agenda was in fact to provoke Muslims in Singapore into pushing for the replacement of the democratic system with an Islamic state in Singapore."

Another clue to Zulfikar's radicalisation is a widely circulated photo - first posted on his Facebook account in 2014 - of him and his children mimicking a pose commonly used by ISIS fighters while standing in front of a black flag that is commonly used by ISIS fighters.

The MHA said: "The Government takes a very serious view of efforts to undermine Singapore's constitutional democracy, and will take firm and decisive action against any person who engages in such activities."

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