TIME FOR CELEBRATION…
The players with Alan vest and Zaidil Zainie celebrating after knowing that the Crocs have won the Premier League championship.
KUCHING – Their faces said it all. The Crocs are the new Premier League champions. And the sweet glory of success can’t happen to a more deserving team. The draw in Likas Stadium yesterday pushes defending champions Sabah only to be the bridesmaid.
The league title came courtesy of Kuala Lumpur who forced a draw with Sabah. And for Alan Vest the seven years of hard work has paid off handsomely. Seasoned players like David Evans, Mohd Ali Sapiee, Roslan Ismail, Jalil Rambli, Zaidel Sakup and Mazlan Wahed played a wondrous job to bring the league title to this shore.
For new comers like Alistair Edwards, Billy Bone, Ramos and Ramles Sari and the rest of the boys, they have all done a wonderful job. It was “painful” just waiting. But when it was confirmed that Kuala Lumpur had forced a draw, joy echoed all round the stadium. Vest believed his players deserved the honour.
“Despite the injury woes, the boys managed to cope with the challenge. And for their good discipline, they deserve the victory,” he said.
“We don’t expect to be champions. We just go into the league hoping to win every game.” Vest, usually serious during training, was all smiles when asked whether he was nervous waiting for the result. He laughed. “Not at all.”
Midfielder Billy Bone, who has been a source of inspiration to other players said: “I just couldn’t describe how I feel this evening. This is my first time in Malaysia and we won the league title.” “I’m very happy. Everyone in the team deserves it. And for me, this is something that I will always remember in my life for this the first medal I ever won in my career.”
|Dari kiri belakang: Ibrahim Mentali, Alistair Edwards, Ali Sapiee, Zaidel Sakup, Mazlan Wahed, David Evans
Dari kiri depan: Roslan Ismail, Ahmad Fairuz Yunus, Dahlan Matussin, Affendi Julaihi, Billy Bone
Alistair Edwards, who was in tears, said: “I’m happy because it happens to me again. It happened when I was Singapore, Johor and in Australia before I play for Sarawak. “Perhaps it’s my luck. Even then, I would like to dedicate our victory to all the Sarawak people for their support and coach Alan Vest for his wonderful job for Sarawak.”
The longest serving foreign import David Evans was so happy he couldn’t find words to express his feelings. “This my second major title with Sarawak apart from the FA Cup and definitely I’m very happy today. “I was nervous waiting for the outcome of the match but I took that feeling off by kicking the ball,” he said. Dave also dedicated the victory to all the Sarawak supporters and coach Alan Vest.
For Roslan Ismail, it has been 17 long years. “It took me 17 years to fight for it. And today I’m very happy because we are the champions. “This is what I have been dreaming for and I’m proud to be members of the the FA Cup and the League champions.”
Player-cum-trainer Jalil Ramli felt terrific. “This is best moment in a footballer’s life. And I really praised everyone for their determination,” said Jalil, who is also one of the members of the FA Cup champions in 1992.
And the man, who has the safest hand this season, was also among the happiest person. “It’s great to win the league title. Definitely it is something that every player looks for. And I’m very happy that I have been the champions twice during my stay with Sarawak,” said Mazlan Wahed.
For veteran midfielder Mohd Ali Sapiee: “For the time being, I want to celebrate the victory first and I don’t want to think of the next game. This is my first experience as a champion after so many years playing and I must celebrate.” Ali said he just could not concentrate during training because he was nervous. “Because I’m so nervous I could feel the pain. And now I’m very happy and feel so much better,” he said.
Speedy Affendi Julaihi felt the team deserved the honour saying: “It has been very difficult for us this season. Most of the time we play without key players and I’m very happy that we make it after waiting for so long,” he said.
A beaming Vest said the terrific triumph would made up for their disappointment of losing the FA Cup semi-final to eventual champions Selangor in July. “We have been the most consistent side in the country over the past seven years, including five years in the top three, and this achievement is just rewards for the players and the fans,” he enthused.
Besides the RM150,000 prize money which will be divided by the FA of Sarawak, the players will bag the RM120,000 in total rewards offered by their sponsor Lotto, through their agent Newt Plus Four of Singapore and Lea Sports Centre, the local dealer.