Grabovac's S-league return up in the air

Warriors yet to receive letter of support from FAS to facilitate his work permit application

Warriors FC could face disappointment in their bid to appoint former striker Mirko Grabovac as their new coach to implement a European-styled training programme at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium.

Sources revealed that the 46-year-old former Singapore international will arrive tomorrow but will not be able to take charge of the nine-time S-League champions right away. This is because the Warriors have yet to obtain a work permit for Grabovac, who in 2008 renounced his Singapore citizenship to return to his native Croatia.

"Clubs that wish to sign foreign players and coaches will require the relevant supporting documents from authorities, including the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) prior to submission to the relevant ministry for employment passes," FAS acting general secretary Yazeen Buhari told The Straits Times. "The FAS works closely with relevant clubs upon their request for any such supporting documents, and will assess the applications accordingly."

But sources revealed that the FAS is unlikely to provide the Warriors with the supporting documents. It is understood that the national body is looking to distance itself from supporting a former candidate of the Foreign Sports Talent scheme who renounced his citizenship after hanging up his boots.

Grabovac enjoyed an exceptional career in the S-League, scoring 244 goals in all competitions as he finished as the top scorer in five seasons. He won the league four times, the Singapore Cup three times and was part of the Tampines Rovers team that won the now-defunct Asean Club Championship in 2005.

For his achievements, in 2005 he was named the Player of the Decade for the S-League, which began in 1996. In 2008, he joined Sengkang Punggol as player-coach, but struggled with the Beep Test at the age of 37 and opted to go back to Croatia to be with his parents, wife and two daughters.

The Warriors are still hoping a solution could be worked out for them to appoint their former player on a one-year deal.

"We have written to the FAS to ask for this supporting letter for us to apply for Mirko's work permit, but we haven't received a response yet," said Warriors general manager Paul Poh.

Prior to working out a deal with Grabovac, the Warriors were in discussions with former Global Cebu coach Akbar Nawas.

While the Singaporean and the Warriors did not come to an agreement, it is believed that he will be considered should Grabovac fail to receive the relevant permit.

Akbar led the Philippine side to the final of the inaugural Philippine Football League (PFL), but lost 1-4 to Ceres Negros in the Finals Series.

The eight-team PFL saw a four-round league format with the top four qualifying for the Final Series play-off to determine the champions in the first year of professional football in the Philippines.

Said Poh: "We do have a contingency plan, but I'd rather not reveal what it is yet."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2018, with the headline 'Grabovac's S-league return up in the air'. Print Edition | Subscribe