Kaplan's a stag

Kaplan's a stag
Slovakian midfielder Jozef Kaplan, who previously played for Geylang International in 2012 and 2013, is set to make his debut for Tampines in the S.League on June 6 2014.

They wanted him so badly that they started his contract a month before he could actually play.

In a bid to revive their hopes in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League, Tampines Rovers plan to make changes to their foreign contingent during the mid-season transfer window, which opens on Tuesday.

Their first signing, ahead of the month-long transfer window, is Slovakian midfielder Jozef Kaplan, who played for Geylang International in 2012 and 2013.

Tampines signed Kaplan during the first week of this month, two weeks after the 28-year-old was released from Malaysian Premier League side Negeri Sembilan FA.

GRATEFUL

Kaplan is grateful for the show of goodwill by the Stags, and has pledged to turn the club's fortunes around this season.

The defending champions of the S.League are third in the 12-team standings, six behind leaders Brunei DPMM FC.

"When I left Negeri, a few other S.League clubs said they were interested in me, but I wanted very much to stick with Tampines," said Kaplan, who notched 30 goals in 48 games for Geylang.

"There will be pressure playing for Tampines, but after Negeri, I think I can handle it."

Kaplan was signed by former LionsXII coach V Sundramoorthy to play for Negeri at the end of last season.

He scored four goals in nine matches for the Malaysian side, but was released last month.

Said the Slovak: "I don't know why the club released me. At Tampines, I will have familiar faces to help me. I know most of my teammates from when I was playing for Geylang."

The Stags have also signed Australian goalkeeper Justin Pasfield, who was the second choice at A-League side Central Coast Mariners for the past three years.

Pasfield, 28, has been hired to replace first-choice custodian Hyrulnizam Juma'at, who will be sidelined until September after undergoing an operation on Tuesday.

The two new recruits, who will make their debut on June 6 when Tampines take on Geylang at the Jalan Besar Stadium, are likely to replace Paraguayan duo Luis Closa and Roberto Martinez Gamarra.

S.League clubs are each allowed to sign five foreigners and the others in the Stags' squad are Japanese defenders Norihiro Kawakami and Kunihiro Yamashita, and marquee striker Miljan Mrdakovic from Serbia.

The Stags could add a third new face to their squad next month. Currently, two players are on trial - New Zealand midfielder Jacob Butler and a Japanese defender.

"We have yet to decide on which of our current five foreigners will go," said Tampines coach Rafi Ali. "But I'm glad to have Jozef in the team. He can score goals and is a hardworking player; someone who can inspire the team."

NEW COACH

Rafi took over as coach of Tampines on March 28, after previous boss Salim Moin resigned following some poor results.

In his four games in charge, the former Singapore international led Tampines to draws with Albirex, Warriors FC and Home United, before securing a 2-1 win over the Courts Young Lions last week.

The former Singapore midfield stars remains hopeful that the Stags can win their fourth successive league title this season, especially with the injection of new foreign blood into the team.

"The title race isn't over. DPMM have six points more than us, but we still have to play them twice and can win those points back," said Rafi.

The win against the Young Lions took a lot of pressure off the boys. I think we will build on that and get stronger from now."

aakasim@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 29, 2014.
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