Kraljevic salutes Balestier's team spirit
League title unlikely, but Balestier's Kraljevic full of praise for his players
HOUGANG UNITED v BALESTIER KHALSA
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Hougang Stadium)
Their hopes of winning the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League title are now hanging by a thread.
But Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic believes his players have much to be proud of this season.
Following Monday's 2-0 defeat by Home United, the Tigers are in third place, six points behind leaders Brunei DPMM with only three games to play.
Barring a dramatic conclusion to the campaign, Balestier look as if they will come up short in their bid for a first S.League crown, although Kraljevic is not ready to throw in the towel yet, as they take on Hougang United tonight.
"We lost a bit of touch at the top but one good thing was that (second-placed) Tampines Rovers beat DPMM," he told the New Paper.
"Now, I think we still have a bit of a chance, especially because all the top teams are playing against each other in the final games.
"We need to win our last three games and, even if it isn't enough to be champions, I think we can aim to finish top two or three, which would still be very good for us."
Kraljevic was awarded the S.League's Coach of the Year award last season after guiding the Tigers to the RHB Singapore Cup and sixth in the league.
There will be no cup glory this year, but the 49-year-old and his charges have enjoyed a positive season.
The unfashionable Toa Payoh-based team raised more than a few eyebrows by the way they have been challenging for the title while also giving a good account of themselves in the AFC Cup in the first half of this season.
Said Kraljevic: "Last year, we won the Singapore Cup and finished inside the top six… I think a top-three finish this year will be a very good achievement.
"We also gained a lot of experience playing in the AFC Cup.
"We had some very tough opponents… One of them (Johor Darul Ta'zim) are playing in the final, while another (Kitchee) reached the quarter-finals.
"They were very tough opponents but we gave all of them a good fight and I believe the experience of playing in the AFC Cup is one reason we have been able to compete with the top teams in the S.League.
"I hope next year will be the same and we can once again play in the AFC Cup."
Other factors behind Balestier's excellent form have been the team spirit and never-say-die attitude within the camp.
When asked how he has managed to achieve this, Kraljevic revealed that it all boiled down to making sure the players did not lose touch with what made them dream of becoming professional footballers.
"At the end of the day, football is a game," explained the German-born Croat. "Yes, it's our job but we must go to the game happy.
"I believe it is very important and I try to make everyone happy to come to training and prepare for the games.
"When you enjoy your work, every day you are looking forward to going to work and playing games."
At the end of the day, football is a game. Yes, it’s our job but we must go to the game happy. I believe it is very important and I try to make everyone happy to come to training and prepare for the games.
- Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic