SINGAPORE, 19 January 2015: LionsXII captain Isa Halim has only one thing on his mind this season: To help his team vindicate the support of the fans who witnessed them finish in eighth place last year.
The skipper feels that it is the team’s obligation to do so, especially after they had given fans reason to cheer the year prior by securing the 2013 Malaysia Super League (MSL) title.
“We have a totally different team this season so we have a chance to start on a clean slate. We will need to regain the fans’ trust in us, so we need to improve individually and as a team,” said Isa.
“This season gives us a chance to show the fans that we will not give up. For example, Chris (van Huizen) was only recently playing amateur football a few years ago and now he’s in the team as a professional footballer.
“It shows that if everybody works hard to pursue their dreams, anything is possible.”
Together with LionsXII’s Head Coach Fandi Ahmad and senior players like Khairul Amri, Isa has been helping the new players like van Huizen settle into the squad before the hustle and bustle of the new MSL season.
“I tell them to enjoy every game they are going to play in the MSL because there is always pressure wherever we play,” explained the captain.
“They just have to make sure that they perform to the best of their abilities. The senior players like Amri and me will be there to calm their nerves and guide them.
“They are doing very well so far in pre-season training, and I hope they can continue their form when the season starts.”
Aside from new players, another addition to the squad is the National Team’s fitness coach, Aleksandar Bozenko, better known as Sasha.
He has been helping the team improve their fitness during the pre-season and Isa is hopeful that Sasha’s efforts will benefit the team in the long run.
“The most significant change this season is having Sasha on board; he has helped us improve our fitness tremendously.
“We just started our pre-season training proper because we have players who just came back from the AFF (ASEAN Football Federation) Suzuki Cup and from their holidays.
“It’s good to have everyone back together to train. We have had a good pre-season so far and hopefully, it can be reflected on the pitch when the actual season starts.”
Isa, who was left out of the National Team for their AFF Suzuki Cup campaign, wants to be considered for selection again and is champing at the bit.
However, the combative midfielder insists that he will not put himself ahead of his team.
“It has been a bad year for me so I don’t want to pressure myself with any expectations. I want the team to do well. It’s never about me or my performance because at the end of the day, it’s how well the team performs,” said Isa.
“So I want the team to enjoy themselves. The results will come; we need to take things one game at a time.
“I’m sure if my performance is consistent throughout the season, the national selectors will give me another chance.”