Singapore Football

Balestier want to win it for bereaved coach Kraljevic

Balestier Khalsa are on a mission.

More than the three points at stake, the players badly want to win tonight's 2015 Great Eastern SG50 Charity Shield against Warriors FC for their coach Marko Kraljevic (inset).

Tragedy struck the German-born Croat's family on Monday, when his sister died of cancer.

He went back to Croatia on the same day to attend his sister's funeral.

As a result, he missed Balestier's AFC Cup clash against Hong Kong's Kitchee SC ­on Tuesday - a game which they lost 3-0.

He returned to Singapore yesterday, but not in time for his team's training session at the Jalan Besar Stadium, which began at 6pm.

However, he will be back in the dug-out for the season's curtain-raiser tonight.

His assistant D Tokijan wants the team to win - not only for themselves, but also for Kraljevic.

The former Singapore international said: "Marko has a special relationship with the players. He looks out for them and, because of that, the boys are making it a point to go all out against the Warriors.

"Plus, this is the first match of the season. The boys, and everyone at the club, want to show everyone that our Singapore Cup win and qualification for the AFC Cup were no fluke.

"There is a lot of incentive for us to do well but, most importantly, we want to do it for Marko after what he's had to go through."

Captain and goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam agreed, saying: "We, as a team, feel for our coach, because everyone knows how difficult it is to lose a loved one.

SMILE

"So we want to give our coach something to smile about, by giving a positive performance and result for both him and the club."

Balestier also need a morale-boosting victory, after some unsavoury developments during the off-season.

The unceremonious departures of two of the club's best players - captain Paul Cunningham and playmaker Park Kang Jin - engulfed Balestier in unwanted controversy, throwing a spanner in the works for Kraljevic's improving team.

Goran Ljubojevic, the burly Croat who plundered 26 goals in all competitions last season, also left the club, moving to Sriwijaya in the Indonesia Super League.

In a bid to soften the blow, the club have acquired the services of Ljubojevic's compatriot, Miroslav Kristic, from NK Imotski in Croatia's third division.

Roughly similar in size and stature to the 1.90 metre-tall Ljubojevic, the 25-year-old is expected to pose the same kind of aerial threat that Ljubojevic used to provide, on top of banging in the goals.

"I hope to get on the scoresheet tomorrow, and help Balestier win against the Warriors," said Kristic, who will be wearing the No. 11 shirt.

"It would be good to get my career here off to a good start, both for the club and myself."

So we want to give our coach something to smile about, by giving a positive performance and result for both him and the club.

— Balestier Khalsa captain and goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam