COURTS IN SESSION, AGAIN
They may have ended last season as wooden spoonists, but the Courts Young Lions did finish their last Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League campaign strongly, chalking up wins in their final three matches.
It suggested the developmental squad of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) were beginning to get to grips playing in the S.League.
Aide Iskandar's young side are aiming to do better this year and just finished a month-long pre-season training tour in Turkey, where they had good results.
The team received more good news yesterday as electrical, IT and furniture retailer Courts renewed their sponsorship of the Under-23 team for another year.
Speaking at the press conference at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday, Courts Singapore CEO Tim Luce said: "Courts has always given back to the community and we love supporting them in whatever way we can; in our 40th anniversary year in particular it's about our relationship with the community and the supporters.
"We love seeing the development of young and new talent (in football) and we are proud to be back this season."
The team, who are also being developed for the 28th South-east Asia Games here in June next year, has been boosted by the addition of talented youngsters Sahil Suhaimi, M Anumanthan, Jordan Webb and Sherif El-Masri.
They will kick off their campaign tomorrow against Balestier Khalsa at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
The value of the sponsorship was not revealed, but Luce said the team will continue to be involved in Courts' promotional activities, which will be ramped up this year in view of the company's milestone.
The sponsorship is the only one with the naming rights of a club in the S.League and FAS president Zainudin Nordin said the collaboration has been fruitful.
He said: "Courts is not a brand that stands still and just sponsors; it is actively involved and always looking for new ways (to collaborate).
"Of course there are many things we can enhance - community engagement, involvement of stars and the development of our talent of the future.
"We will always see what other opportunities we have to develop talent in a more concrete way."
Ammirul aims to make his mark
The jump from Prime League to the Great-Eastern-Yeo's S.League has been tough for Ammirul Emmran.
The 19-year-old Courts Young Lions midfielder (below) said: "The training is more intense, so I have to be more focused and quicker on the ball."
But the teenager, the inaugural winner of The New Paper's Dollah Kassim Award in 2010, will do his best, with a place in next year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games here also at stake.
"The senior players already have at least one season in the team and I will be fighting for my chance to play.
"When I do go in and play, I will definitely give my all because this season is my chance to prove my worth (for the SEA Games next year)."
The Young Lions will have two foreign players this year: Sherif El-Masri, who is into his second year at the club, and ex-Home United winger Jordan Webb.
The New Paper previously reported that the Canadian duo are being earmarked by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) for citizenship through the Foreign Sports Talent Scheme.
Speaking to TNP yesterday, FAS president Zainudin Nordin said: "(Their signings) are for the larger objective of strengthening the development of the team, and to ensure they perform (in the league) at the same time.
"In the context of football development here the foreign talent scheme is always something on our radar screen.
"We are doing it very seriously and judiciously... but we will always do our homework because they need to be really high-calibre players who can be accepted and integrated in society."
Excitement and optimism are emotions commonly associated with the start of the season, but not for Warriors FC defender Abdil Qaiyyim.
The 24-year-old's world has come crashing down even before he has kicked a ball in this Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League season.
The Warriors kick off their campaign against Geylang International tomorrow, but the former LionsXII defender will not be in the starting line-up nor on the bench - he will not even be at the club.
The New Paper has learnt that the Warriors have terminated Abdil's contract with effect from Feb 19, for a "disciplinary matter".
TNP understands that a misunderstanding arose between Warriors' general manager Chong Wei Chiang and Abdil over a right knee injury the player was carrying, and the player's performance in the league's mandatory 2.4km fitness test.
With regard to the test, coach Alex Weaver said: "The club have set certain standards for performance in the test, and Abdil passed the S.League standard (10 minutes), but he couldn't get to the club's standard (9min 30sec).
"But it wasn't the test result that was the issue, the disciplinary matter occurred after that."
Abdil clocked 9min 50sec.
The eight-time S.League champions are already looking at two players to replace Abdil before the S.League transfer window closes on March 21.
"It was an unfortunate situation, but the club have acted quickly, appropriately, and we are moving on. We are close to signing two players," said Weaver.
Abdil is perhaps most remembered for his brave performance in the 2012 Malaysia Cup second leg semi-final against ATM FA.
The LionsXII lost on penalties after the game was tied 2-2 on aggregate.
Abdil joined the Warriors' youth programme as a 15-year-old in 2004. He made his senior debut for the club only last year after stints with the Courts Young Lions, Home United and the LionsXII.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Abdil said: "It was an unfortunate misunderstanding that escalated, but I'd like to put that behind me and move on.
"I'm working on keeping my fitness levels up, and finding a new club before the transfer window closes."
Weaver insists that the situation will not disrupt preparations for their opening league fixture tomorrow.
"The players obviously don't want to see one of their teammates go, but it wouldn't have been good to have kept someone who has acted inappropriately," said the Englishman.
"Discipline is important here and there's no individual bigger than the team.
"We got in a good training session (on Thursday night) and we can't wait for our season to start."
TNP's Football Kaki app a hit
The New Paper's Football Kaki Live mobile application has got off to a flying start since its revamp and release on Thursday.
As of press time yesterday, the iOS version of the football app was ranked as the No. 1 title on the list of free sports apps at the local Apple App Store.
The list is based on the number of times an app is downloaded.
Its Android version is also well-received, clocking in at No. 8 on the list of free sports apps at Google Play.
First released for the 2010 World Cup, Football Kaki has gone through a revamp, adding S.League coverage alongside other offerings like the English Premier League, Uefa Champions League and Malaysian Super League.
Besides providing news and live scores, the S.League section of Football Kaki Live also features a weekly Pick The Score contest with $500 up for grabs.
Five lucky punters who guess the correct full-time score of the designated S.League match of the week will each win $100.
To take part, users must first register under the new version and login.
Selected S.League matches will also feature live commentary provided by TNP's sports journalists.
Users can also find video highlights in their respective match reports to relive the key moments of each game.
More work is underway to ensure Football Kaki Live provides readers with even more information.
Apart from more match and player statistics, users can expect more leagues and competitions to appear on the app in the coming weeks and months.