It was the worst piece of news coach Khidir Khamis and Balestier Khalsa could possibly receive after knowing their captain and custodian Zaiful Nizam, was to miss up to six months of action after sustaining an injury against Albirex Niigata.
Indeed coach Khidir must've realised that to lose Zaiful made Balestier's loss seem to Albirex seem trivial as the impact of the captain's departure has already begun to manifest itself; as seen by the humiliating 7-1 defeat to Brunei DPMM. Significantly, it was a game to be forgotten for the Tigers as they were simply atrocious especially at the back without their skipper to guide them.
Zaiful's stand-in Zacharial Leong seemed a little too raw for the occasion as he made a couple of high-profile errors that cost his team dearly. It was obvious to see that the untested teenager wasn't ready for top-flight football as the game against DPMM will surely dampen his confidence severely.
If Balestier was abysmal in defence, the same can be said about their attack too as without talisman Huzaifah Aziz running the midfield, the Tigers looked disjointed and lacked inspiration up front. In the post-game interview, Raihan Rahman was at a loss for words to describe his team's dreadful performance and could only allude the loss to his Zaiful's absence.
Watching Raihan's interview was enough to understand how much of a huge figure Zaiful is in Balestier but coach Khidir Khamis's now will be to rally his troops and motivate them to start winning games. It must be said that this season Balestier has been putting in good displays and once Huzaifah returns from suspension, the Tigers will have a much-needed boost. Khidir's challenge now will be to alter his team's mindset and imbue them with a spirit of collectiveness so that they can achieve their goals this season.