By Khalis Rifhan
Former Singapore international Fandi Ahmad knows that all eyes will be on him and his newly assembled Johor side when the Malaysian Super League resumes in 2013.
Football Association of Johor’s Chairman Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim [Crown Prince] has splashed the cash on not only prominent local players, but also international stars as well.
After the sensational arrival of former Spanish international Dani Guiza half a month ago, Johor announced on Friday that they have also secured the signature of former Lazio midfielder Simone Del Nero.
“After nearly 19 years in the cauldron, we are finally able to assemble a good and solid squad," Fandi said.
“We hope to raise the standard of football in Johor. That is why we signed good national players and international players, and [we] hope to bring back the cup.
“But ultimately, we [also] aim to develop the youth players in Johor.”
With expectation comes pressure, and Fandi is fully aware of the situation. However, Singapore's favorite footballing son insists that pressure is not the main issue for him
“The pressure is always there but the important thing is how we deal with [the] national players and all the stars in the squad. If we can handle them properly, then I think we have a good team," he quipped.
“It is not about the individual, or whether you are a national player; it is about the whole 25-27 players in my squad.”
The Johor FA manager also revealed that he hopes for immediate results in the upcoming season.
“When the Crown Prince first called me and I agreed to this job, he wanted to win something in two years. But after signing all this great and well known players, we feel that we can achieve something in the new season,” Fandi opined.
This is probably the first time that Fandi had ever managed a team filled with an array of national and international stars and he acknowledged that it would not have been possible without the trust and faith of the Crown Prince.
“I am so happy to be part of this [and] I am thankful to the Crown Prince for giving me this opportunity. I am not only managing the Super League team but also overseeing the Premier League and President’s Cup squad too," he said.
“We are looking forward to playing all the teams. LionsXII is just one of the other teams that make up the Malaysian Super League. We have to beat everybody to win the league.”
Apart from the two European players, Johor have also signed three players from Malaysia Cup finalists ATM FA in the form of twin brothers Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak and Zaquan Adha Abdul Radzak, and Azmi Muslim.
The trio will be joined by Muslim Ahmad, who made the journey south from Terengganu FA and Selangor FA attacking maestro, Safiq Rahim.