This report appeared in today’s edition of The Straits Times:
Shahril, Baihakki likely to return home
(The Straits Times, 7 Feb 2011)
By Lee Min Kok
SINGAPORE captain Shahril Ishak and national defender Baihakki Khaizan seem set to make a return to the S-League.
The Straits Times understands that the duo, who play for Indonesia Super League (ISL) side Persib Bandung, have been deemed surplus to requirements and could be released by their club soon.
Shahril, 27, the S-League’s Player of the Year last season, left Home United in October – two months before the S-League season ended.
Ex-Geylang United defender Baihakki was one of seven national players, including striker Noh Alam Shah, to lead the highly-publicised exodus to Indonesia in 2009. That was when the ISL introduced a rule under which two of each club’s five foreign imports had to come from Asia.
The offer of higher pay, better perks and the chance to play in front of 20,000-strong crowds drew several high-profile Lions to the ISL.
Baihakki joined Persija Jakarta, before moving to Persib last year.
Both he and Shahril could not be reached for comment yesterday.
According to the Indonesian football blog Jakarta Casual, Persib’s new coach Daniel Roekito does not rate the 27-year-old Baihakki highly.
The Indonesian, who took over the reins last November, recently confirmed the signing of Malaysian striker Safee Sali (the top scorer at last December’s AFF Suzuki Cup with five goals) for the second half of the 2010-11 ISL season, which starts on March 7. Persib lie second from bottom in the 15-team ISL after 12 games.
And Baihakki seems ready to leave. He wrote on his Twitter page yesterday: ‘Prepare (sic) to go, but will still give my best for the last 3 games.’
I was about to say something rude and cutting like “So, Baihakki, I’m curious. What does humble pie taste like?”
But I thought better of it.
But now that Malaysia’s players are the flavour of the month after winning the South-east Asia Games gold medal and the Asean Cup, I wonder how many more Singapore players are in danger of losing their well-paying and glamorous careers in the ISL — especially after Singapore’s dismal showing and their own crappy performances in the Asean Cup.
What I thought was telling was this sentence about new Persib coach Daniel Roekito:
“According to the Indonesian football blog Jakarta Casual, Persib’s new coach Daniel Roekito does not rate the 27-year-old Baihakki highly.”
I’m also wondering how many S-League clubs will be vying to take them back.
I am sure there will be a few clubs competing for Shahril’s services. After all, he is young, an emerging talent and the national skipper. No one will also forget the critical role he played in Home’s push for the S-League title before he left for the ISL, one which ultimately saw him being named the S-League’s Player of the Year.
The fact that Home’s title challenge immediately went to pieces the moment he left also spoke volumes of his abilities and importance.
But I’m not so sure about Baihakki’s desirability after all the allegations of ill discipline and arrogance about him (and Ridhuan Muhammad) that has come out in the media in recent times.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan