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South Korea warn against LVG, AVB rumours

South Korea
 By Gabriel Tan

Balestier look to Myanmar trio to revive their 2017 S.League hopes

Balestier and Myanmar player Kyaw Zayar Win
Balestier's new Myanmar recruit Kyaw Zayar Win faced Singapore in the 2014 SEA Games.

Balestier Khalsa are hoping their three new imports from Myanmar will provide enough spice to revive their S.League fortunes in the 2107 season.

After keeping relatively quiet on the preseason transfer front, the Tigers came to life this week by unveiling their foreign contingent for the upcoming campaign.

On Monday, the club announced the arrivals of Aung Kyaw Naing and Nanda Lin Kyaw Chit from Nay Pyi Taw and Yadanarbon respectively. Both were in action two days later in a 1-0 friendly defeat to S.League champions Albirex Niigata (S).

Then, on Thursday afternoon, Balestier confirmed the arrival of midfield playmaker Kyaw Zayar Win, who joins from Ayeyawady United, having previously had a brief overseas stint in Malaysia with Perak.

The three players are all full Myanmar internationals and represented their country at the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup, although none of them were selected for the most recent edition at the end of last year.

After a disappointing campaign saw them finish second from bottom in 2016, Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic hopes that his new imports will play a huge part in reviving their fortunes.

"Two of them [Nanda and Aung] have both already had one training session and one match, while the other one [Zayar Win] just arrived so we'll give him some time to settle," Kraljevic told ESPN FC.

"I think it's a good move by the club to be signing players from the region, and I've received a lot of good feedback.

"They adapt very fast to life in Singapore as they come from similar conditions.

"Last year, we really struggled up front so I spoke to the club management about addressing the situation and it's good that all three are very fast, attacking players.

"We have a really young team this year and it's good that the club wants to build up for the future and, so far, the new players are mixing together well."

Apart from the Myanmar trio, the Tigers have also retained key players like goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam and defender Sheikh Abdul Hadi, while bringing Singapore midfielder Raihan Rahman.

Coach Marko Kraljevic says the Burmese imports could attract Singapore-based Myanmar nationals to Balestier's games.

While the naysayers may already be writing off Balestier, Kraljevic insists there is plenty of desire from his players to have a better time than they did last year.

"Of course, we want to improve every day," explained the German-born Croatian.

"I always tell the boys that they have to wake up every day, thinking about getting better at what they do, and raising the bar.

"Now that the squad is more or less settled, we can start to work at playing together as a team and, hopefully, they all can gel as soon as possible."

And, although Kraljevic will be looking to Nanda, Kyaw Naing and Zayar Win for a boost on the field, their presence could also help Balestier reap benefits in the stands as the S.League, and its clubs, continue to fight against falling attendances.

In past years, games involving Burmese teams in Singapore have drawn large crowds due to the significant number of Myanmar nationals working in the country.

"Exactly," Kraljevic replied, when asked if the Tigers were hoping their three Myanmar internationals would help fill up the Toa Payoh Stadium.

"This is also one of the reasons why the club decided to sign these players.

"Sometimes, when the stadium is empty, the players fail to find that extra drive to push on.

"If we can pull in the crowds, hopefully it will result in the players rising up to the occasion.

"So far, everybody is really looking forward to the new season and we hope to play in front of many fans and produce better performances."

Kraljevic is now in his fourth season at the helm of Balestier. He guided them to their 2014 Singapore Cup triumph, as well as appearances in the AFC Cup over the past two years.

Gabriel Tan is a TV and radio pundit who writes for ESPN FC and The New Paper on Southeast Asian football. Twitter: @gabetan13.



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