Hougang United have been dealt a setback just weeks before the start of the new S-League season.
The Cheetahs have been informed that their long-serving foreign import Mamadou Diallo will not be allowed to play this season, after the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) did not approve the Guinean's application for an S Pass.
The New Paper understands the 23-year-old forward's existing permit, which had been extended for the past four weeks, will expire at the end of the week.
He is likely to leave Singapore in the next few days.
Hougang general manager Nicholas Low said: "We're close to the end of the saga. We tried every single thing we could, but it's very likely he will not be a Hougang player much longer."
Diallo had signed for Hougang in 2008, when the club were still known as Sengkang Punggol.
With his committed and energetic displays, he became the fans' favourite and had a penchant for scoring spectacular goals.
Last season, he won the Yeo's People's Choice Award.
Hougang coach Amin Nasir could not hide his disappointment.
The former national defender said that he had been keeping his fingers crossed that the club's management would be able to sort out Diallo's work-permit issue.
He had included the player in all of Hougang's pre-season friendlies, and the player has continued to train with the club daily.
Said Amin: "Of course, when good players leave, it's a big loss for you as a coach.
"The fact he has been here for years speaks a lot about his ability and character.
"If we can't keep him, it's a real waste. But this is football sometimes."
Diallo's predicament mirrors that of former Gombak United forward Gabriel Obatola, the S-League's Young Player of the Year in 2009.
Just months after being recognised as the league's best young talent, the Nigerian's application for an Employment Pass (EP) was rejected.
Just two weeks before his departure from Gombak in Feb 2010, Obatola's teammate and compatriot, Kingsley Njoku, was also rejected an EP.
Balestier Khalsa chairman S Thavaneson, whose club have signed African players like Nigerians Obadin Aikhena and Fortune Udo in the past, said local clubs must always be mindful of the chances an application for a work pass could be rejected.
"Every club know that their intention to sign any foreign player, irrespective of where he comes from, is subject to approval from MOM," he said.
"That's why we always make it clear to imports that we will not sign a contract with them until a work permit has been approved."
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