Football: Fingers crossed over Bai

Johor Darul Takzim I (JDTI's) defender Baihakki Khaizan (left), working out his injured ankle with fitness coach Jaime Serra-Olivares at Tan Sri Dato Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium in Larkin, Johor on 23 January 2014.

Days after being released by Malaysian Super League (MSL) side Johor Darul Ta'zim, Singapore defender Baihakki Khaizan now has two options to mull over.

Singapore's MSL side the LionsXII, and Tampines Rovers of the Great Eastern Yeo's S.League are both keen on signing the defender on loan.

The New Paper understands that the LionsXII have already submitted an appeal to the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) to sign the 30-year-old (left) on loan for the rest of the season.

Speaking to TNP yesterday, Tampines chairman Teo Hock Seng confirmed the club's interest in signing the Singapore international. Said Teo: "If there is a possibility to sign (Baihakki), then I'd be happy to.

"But I can't afford to take over his whole contract. So, it depends on his release. If he is available on loan, then okay.

"My management team have spoken to him, a proposal has been made, and the player has said he will think about it."

Tampines, winners of the S.League title the last three seasons, are second behind Brunei DPMM.

In the AFC Cup, they need a draw with Myanmar's Nay Pyi Taw at the Jalan Besar Stadium tonight to secure passage into the knockout stages.

Baihakki is believed to favour rejoining the LionsXII, whom he helped to the league title last year.

But the mid-season transfer window for the MSL closes at midnight today, and the LionsXII face a race against time to get their man.

Sources have revealed that a move to Fandi Ahmad's side could be rejected due to FAM's "cooling off period" ruling, which prohibits a foreign player from playing for two MSL clubs in the same season.

Baihakki, who is on a four-year deal with JDT worth almost $1.5 million, hopes the rule will not apply to him because he is returning to the Singapore side.

The towering defender, who has amassed 105 caps for Singapore, is desperate to play first-team football to remain in the frame for selection to the national team.

The Lions will defend their ASEAN crown when the AFF Suzuki Cup rolls around at the end of the year, with co-hosts Singapore playing their matches at the new National Stadium at the Sports Hub.


Said one source: "Even if FAM approve the appeal, it's unlikely that JDT will allow Bai to join the LionsXII, who are their direct rivals in the league.

"JDT are more inclined to loan him to an S.League club, instead."

Baihakki last featured in the S.League in 2009 when he turned out for Geylang United.

JDT have played 10 matches in the MSL this season and the central defender has started in nine of them. He was deregistered by the club last week and replaced by Brazilian defender Marcos Antonio Elias Santos.

The club, who are third in the MSL, three points behind leaders Pahang, also released former Argentina star Pablo Aimar.

Baihakki will remain on the club's books and is slated to turn out for second-tier side JDT II next season in the Malaysian Premier League, alongside Singapore captain Shahril Ishak.

This article was published on April 22 in The New Paper.

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