Gombak target S.League return next year
Gombak start with youth teams, await FAS permission for S.League return next year
Gombak United, who sat out the S.League after 2012 to consolidate their finances, are taking measured steps for a full return to the competition.
The Bulls will return to the fray this year with two youth teams, competing against other clubs' Centre of Excellence (COE) teams in the Football Association of Singapore (FAS)-run tournament.
And they have already written to the FAS and S.League for permission to return to the S.League next year.
Gombak chairman John Yap is delighted to see the Bulls' logo reappear.
"Gombak sat out the league from the end of 2012, after which we consolidated and concentrated on improving our revenue model," he told The New Paper yesterday. "As it is now, we think we are financially stable and are ready to return."
TNP understands that Gombak's return rode on the back of their revamped revenue model, which is based on clubhouse operations.
S.League clubs' annual operational budget ranges between $1.2 million and $1.5m, and they receive some $800,000 from FAS subsidies.
The rest is mostly funded by clubhouse profits.
"We will start off by contributing to Singapore football through youth - one of our intentions - and that is the first step.
"We have also indicated in our letter to the FAS and S.League that we want to return to the S.League in 2017."
It is understood that Gombak wrote to the parties last December, requesting a return to COE competitions this year and to rejoin the S.League next year.
They have since received official confirmation that they can take part in COE competitions this year.
Yap revealed that the Bulls remain open to the FAS' suggestions on how they can return to the league.
"We can return on our own, but we will listen to the FAS' suggestions, if any, for a joint return (merger) with an existing S.League club, another club who are sitting out, or even another party with financial muscle who are keen to contribute to local football," he said.
"That is basically our intention."
Gombak have already formed two youth teams for the COE tournament and have been in training since Jan 11, under team manager Peter Dhanaraj, and coaches Walid Lounis and Hamqaamal Shah, who are both former professionals on Gombak's books.
Former Thailand international and Gombak player, Surachai Jaturapattarapong, has also been roped in as a mentor for their programme.
The club have put together two squads - Under-15 and Under-17 - comprising a number of boys younger than the stipulated age group, who will be able to stay in the club the following year.
The entire project will cost Gombak in excess of $150,000 this year.
"We're sticking to the philosophy of development, and not just taking elite players who have been involved (in COE programmes) before," said 30-year-old Hamqaamal, who was himself once part of the COE programme at Woodlands Wellington.
"I'm lucky that the Gombak COE is coming back, but some of these players are lucky too," added Walid.
"They are able to play in a tournament like this, and some of them are good players too, who somehow were not selected by other clubs."
Hamqaamal is also coaching in Sport Singapore's Saturday Night Lights, a programme for youth at risk, and he has already roped in at least one player from the programme.
"I wasn't considered a superior player in my playing days, and attitude and willingness to learn were what carried me through," he said.
"These are also characteristics that we're looking out for in young footballers, in addition to skill."
Said Yap: "We want to continue to contribute to Singapore football, and this entry of our COE teams is just the first step.
"We are of course aiming to get back into the S.League next year."