Match Preview: Warwick Knights And Kembangan Seek To Draw First Blood In Season Opener

Kembangan United harbours big dreams of achieving promotion this season.
Photo: Kembangan United Football Club

Aaron Chan
Writer / Editor
The Unofficial S.League Podcast

The National Football League Division 2 will kick off at Jalan Besar Stadium tomorrow afternoon when Kembangan United take on Warwick Knights at 5pm.

Kembangan made waves in the local football fraternity earlier this year when they were reported to have sealed three sponsorship deals worth about S$25,000 for the 2017 season, no mean feat for a team playing two tiers below the S.League.

The Golden Horses are kitted by Thai-owned sportswear company Warrix Sports, which also produces kits for the Thailand national team, while local fitness company ActivFitness and businessman John Yap, who is the chairman of former S.League club Gombak United, make up the other two sponsors.

It is understood that Yap would be bearing all costs related to the booking of pitches for Kembangan's training or friendly matches this year, while ActivFitness would be conducting fitness classes for the team throughout the season.

Kembangan United chairman Albert Ng was candid about his targets for the club this season. "We're definitely aiming for promotion to Division 1. To achieve this objective, we want to run the club as professionally as we can."

Kembangan United 's kits unveiled during their press conference in February.
Photo: Kembangan United Football Club

While this is only their second season in the league, the target of gaining promotion is certainly no pipe dream for the Eastern-based team as they were unbeaten in the Island-Wide League (IWL) last year, finishing at the top of Group B. However, the Golden Horses suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to fellow IWL side Admiralty Football Club in the promotion playoffs and the club has roped in former Jurong Town FC and Singapore international midfielder Darimosuvito Tokijan in a bid to heighten their chances of promotion this season.

Apart from training three times a week, which exceeds the norm of one training session per week employed by most NFL clubs, part of Kembangan's success on the pitch stems from the fact that most of their players are the alumni of Geylang International's Under-18 squad from the batch of 2008 (when they were still known as Geylang United) - where Ng was assistant coach to former national custodian Stephen Ng - and having played together for a long time, the Kembangan lads have formed a strong bond with each other.

Kembangan were successful in retaining the services of last season's IWL top scorer Saiful Jamaludin and the hotshot will hope to inspire the team to an opening day win over tough opposition in the form of Warwick Knights.

Warwick Knights boast former S.League players Anaz Hadee and Ridhwan Osman among their ranks.
Photo: Warwick Knights Football Club 

The Knights are also looking to fly high in the reinstated second division this season and they have set a slightly more modest top four finish.“We aspire to bring success to the team by virtue of putting in hard work and perseverance for the game because we believe that success does not happen by accident.” said Warwick Knights chairman Nazuwan Samad.

Nazuwan singled out team captain Hassanul Ariff, goalkeeper Arif Agus and defender Akhbar Ali as his key players for the upcoming season. He will also be looking forward to Anaz Andul Hadee and Ridhwan Osman to guide the rest of the team to success with their experience of playing in Singapore's top flight.

The Knights have swooped for former Woodlands Wellington midfielder Armanizam Dolah from Division One side Yishun Sentek Mariners to lend further stability to the squad, while Nazuwan has high hopes in Warwick's promising youngster, Wong Ding Li.

Nazuwan (centre) during the MOU signing with Little Leo Soccer School and Merlion Youth League Chairman Khairil Zam last season. Khairil (right) is also the honorary secretary of fellow NFL Division 2 side Gymkhana FC.
Photo: Warwick Knights Football Club 

Warwick Knights are coached by former Etoile and Tanjong Pagar United gaffer Patrick Vallée and we understand that the Frenchman is currently back in France to tend to some other commitments until July. In his absence, assistant coach Nas Nasta'in will be holding the reins for the team.

Following the match between Kembangan United and Warwick Knights, the NFL Division 1 will also be kicking off in a match which sees champions Eunos Crescent take on GFA Sporting Westlake at 7:30pm.

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