New lease of life for Balestier Khalsa winger Zulfadhmi Suzliman
Balestier's new signing raring to go, after bit-part role at former club
The year 2019 was one to forget for both Zulfadhmi Suzliman and his club Balestier Khalsa.
The Tigers finished bottom of the nine-team Singapore Premier League (SPL), while Zulfadhmi had to settle for a bit-part role with his former employers Tampines Rovers, after finding himself surplus to requirements.
But the 24-year-old's spirits have been lifted after joining Balestier and he is raring to make up for lost time in the new season, which kicks off on Saturday.
He told The New Paper: "I want to forget (last) year and focus on this season.
"My ambition for the season is simple. I just want to play more than I did last year. I know what I can contribute as a player and I hope I can get the time to do that."
Zulfadhmi broke onto the scene with a series of eye-catching performances for the Stags in 2018, which included winning the SPL Goal of the Year Award.
The winger subsequently earned his first national call-up under interim Lions coach Fandi Ahmad. Together with his brother Zulqarnaen, the pair made their debut in a 1-1 draw with Mauritius in November 2018.
But, while his younger sibling has seen his stock rise, earning a call-up to the SEA Games squad last December and then joining the nouveau riche Lion City Sailors, Zulfadhmi's star has faded.
When asked why he felt he was left out of the Stags's side, Zulfadhmi replied: "I don't know.
"Maybe it was the change of coach, he had his ideas and maybe he thought I wasn't in his plans.
"Maybe because in my position, there were two foreigners (Jordan Webb and Ryutaro Megumi)."
But a call from Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic convinced Zulfadhmi of his next destination.
He said: "Coach Marko made me feel that he knows what I can contribute and what my abilities are, and I can already see the trust he has in me."
Kraljevic believes the Stags' loss will be the Tigers' gain, saying: "He has a lot of potential. He has shown it, but he was unlucky last year.
"We told him that he will get game time here and he has to show what he can do. He can be back with the national team again, he is definitely good enough for that."
With the Tigers releasing more than 10 players from last season's squad, Marko is looking forward to what his new-look side can do.
They can also count on fit-again goalkeeper and captain, Zaiful Nizam who missed most of last season with injury. Up front, they have also signed former Albirex Niigata striker Shuhei Hoshino, who won the 2018 SPL Golden Boot award.
Said Kraljevic: "It's a completely different team (from last year) and I have told the boys, this club cannot be last.
"We want to show that this group can do well in the league and surprise people."
Starting this Sunday, when Zulfadhmi will be more than eager to show his former club Tampines what they are missing.
Balestier Khalsa factfile
Coach: Marko Kraljevic
Homeground: Bishan Stadium
IN - Shuhei Hoshino (FW, from Busan Transportation FC), Zulfadhmi Suzliman (MF, Tampines Rovers), Jufri Taha (DF, Geylang Int'l), Ensar Bruncevic (DF, Spartak Subotica II)
OUT - Raihan Rahman (MF, to Tanjong Pagar United), Nurullah Hussein (DF, Geylang Int'l), Huzaifah Aziz (MF, Tampines Rovers), Daniel Goh (MF, Albirex Niigata)
Last season: 9th
Outlook: Expect a much-improved performance from the Tigers this season. Despite a huge turnover of players, they go into the season boasting an attack that many other clubs will look at with envy. Shuhei Hoshino will bring the goals, but the struggle may be at the other end.
- v Tampines Rovers (away)
March 7 (5.30pm)
- v Albirex Niigata (home)
March 14 (5.30pm)
- v Young Lions (away)