Match Of The Week

Football: Balestier signing hopes for boom time

Balestier Khalsa striker Keegan Linderboom training at Toa Payoh Stadium. He has netted thrice in five games and the team are sitting pretty in third place in the standings.
Balestier Khalsa striker Keegan Linderboom training at Toa Payoh Stadium. He has netted thrice in five games and the team are sitting pretty in third place in the standings.ST PHOTO: ALVIN HO

Kiwi forward Linderboom does not regret his decision to turn down S. African, NZ sides

SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE

Balestier v Warriors Toa Payoh Stadium, tomorrow, 5.30pm


With a surname like his, it is no surprise that Balestier Khalsa's new striker, Keegan Linderboom, has made an impact since joining the Tigers in March.

The 28-year-old New Zealander has scored thrice in five Singapore Premier League (SPL) games and hopes to keep his run going when Balestier host Warriors FC tomorrow at the Toa Payoh Stadium.

"I don't really know much about Warriors but we are going to carry on what's been working for us - getting the ball up to Vedran (Mesec) and myself as quickly as possible, long throws, that kind of stuff," said the 1.88m South Africa-born front man earlier this week.

His arrival in Singapore almost did not happen.

Oceania's top side Auckland City, who have played in the Fifa Club World Cup every year since 2011 - the same competition that has featured top sides like Real Madrid, Chelsea and Bayern Munich - tried to sign him from under Balestier's nose at the eleventh hour.

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South African top-tier side Bloemfontein Celtic also made an approach.

Linderboom, who scored 13 goals in 31 games over two seasons for Waitakere United in New Zealand's ISPS Handa Premiership, rejected all the offers and said: "It was a difficult situation to be in because there's a chance to play for Auckland City, play in the Club World Cup, which is a big thing.

"On the other side of it, the chance to go play professionally in Singapore, which is another good experience.

"Even though Auckland was a big opportunity, football in New Zealand is still semi-professional. I wanted to go one further."

There have been no regrets, said Linderboom. He added: "Balestier have welcomed me and Vedran so well and helped us get up to speed with everything, even just the little things like places to go eat. I've felt at home since day one."

Linderboom, whose family emigrated from South Africa to New Zealand in 1998 to flee escalating crime, has challenged himself to hit between 12 and 15 goals this campaign but added that the focus was helping Balestier improve.

Despite losing their past two games, the Tigers are third in the nine-team SPL.

Last season, they finished seventh with only five wins, scoring just 17 goals in 24 matches.

THE RIGHT CHOICE

Even though Auckland was a big opportunity, football in New Zealand is still semi-professional. I wanted to go one further.

KEEGAN LINDERBOOM, Balestier's new striker, on picking the Singapore Premier League to further his professional ambitions .

It took them 11 games to score six goals, a tally they have already reached after five matches.

Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic said: "This year, we have two attacking foreign players who can score, give us lots of options going forward, and link up well with the rest of the team."

Scoring is exactly the problem Kraljevic's opposite number, Mirko Grabovac, has.

Grabovac's Warriors are winless in four games, having drawn three times and scoring just twice.

The poor return is partly down to the absence of French striker Jonathan Behe, who scored in the opening game, a 1-1 draw with Geylang International, but then missed the next three games with a hamstring injury.

"We must score," said Grabovac, who added that Behe had returned to training but faces a late fitness test before he can feature tomorrow. "It has not been an easy start, but the performance of the team is getting better and better, and that is what's important.

"Once we get the first win, that will give us more confidence and lift the team forward."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2018, with the headline 'Balestier signing hopes for boom time'. Print Edition | Subscribe