Football: Geylang Eagles spreading wings

Geylang's Croatian forward Branko Cubrilo (above) signs an autograph for fan Bryan Lee during a meet-and-greet session yesterday. 0n the same pitch, Geylang's new adviser, MP Tin Pei Ling (left), takes on club defender Al-Qassimy Rahman during a kick-abou
Geylang's Croatian forward Branko Cubrilo signs an autograph for fan Bryan Lee during a meet-and-greet session yesterday. 0n the same pitch, Geylang's new adviser, MP Tin Pei Ling (above) , takes on club defender Al-Qassimy Rahman during a kick-about. ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG
Geylang's Croatian forward Branko Cubrilo (above) signs an autograph for fan Bryan Lee during a meet-and-greet session yesterday. 0n the same pitch, Geylang's new adviser, MP Tin Pei Ling (left), takes on club defender Al-Qassimy Rahman during a kick-abou
Geylang's Croatian forward Branko Cubrilo (above) signs an autograph for fan Bryan Lee during a meet-and-greet session yesterday. 0n the same pitch, Geylang's new adviser, MP Tin Pei Ling, takes on club defender Al-Qassimy Rahman during a kick-about. ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG

New-look team aim to engage community as Geylang chairman eyes a top-four finish

With a fresh buzz about the S-League, Geylang International have ramped up their efforts to become winners both on and off the pitch.

On the footballing front, the Eagles hope to soar with five former LionsXII players - new captain Isa Halim, Gabriel Quak, Faritz Hameed, Al-Qaasimy Rahman and Sahil Suhaimi - in the squad.

Also new to the eyrie are veterans Daniel Bennett, Shariff Samat and Indra Sahdan Daud, taking the squad's average age to 261/2 years.

Head coach Hasrin Jailani is another new face, though he was part of Geylang's league-winning team in 2001.

 

He told the audience assembled for yesterday's media conference to unveil the 24-man squad: "It is a promising team. It is an exciting one. It is one that I am confident will do their best on and off the pitch."

Club chairman Ben Teng, who took over the reins in December, told The Straits Times that the management would "realistically be satisfied with a top-four position" in his first year in charge.

He also said that he is looking to bring the club back to their former glory. Geylang won the inaugural S-League title in 1996 and again in 2001. But the Eagles have finished no higher than eighth in each of the last five seasons.

Apart from improving performances on the pitch, Geylang are also looking to win over more members of the community, with MP Tin Pei Ling appointed the club's adviser yesterday.

Ms Tin, Member of Parliament for MacPherson Single Member Constituency, will work with the club on community outreach, corporate social responsibility (CSR), grassroots football and fund-raising activities.

When asked why she decided to take on the role, she said: "We see eye to eye on one very important aspect, something that is very close to my heart, and that is youth development."

Ms Tin's appointment comes after players and officials distributed rice to households in the Kembangan-Chai Chee and Geylang Serai constituencies together with Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin on Jan 17.

Teng explained the recent engagements: "It's important to have team players carrying the rice, visiting the people... It has multiple facets - team bonding, CSR, (the players being) role models, bringing the fans back to the stadium."

However, he conceded that the club "still need to do a lot of groundwork, and plan to reach out to fans in that (Bedok Stadium) area".

Team manager Aizat Ramli indicated that the increased hype surrounding this season, with the disbanded LionsXII players mostly back in Singapore and Tampines Rovers' signing of Englishman Jermaine Pennant, as one of the reasons the club have stepped up their efforts at engaging the community, along with filling up the seats in stadiums.

He said: "Part of our motive is to get people to support the club, banter about the S-League... with all eyes on the league, clubs should all put in sufficient effort to create awareness.

"We want to make use of the vicinity, and let people know there is this club in the east, in Bedok Stadium."

Geylang also announced Epson Singapore as their main sponsor for the year at the media conference. Though no official figure was revealed, the electronics company will provide the club with printing and imaging services as well as an undisclosed amount of cash for a year.

The Eagles open their season against pre-season favourites Tampines at the Jurong West Stadium on Monday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2016, with the headline 'EAGLES SPREADING WINGS'. Print Edition | Subscribe