Baihakki can't join LionsXII despite JDT limbo

Baihakki can't join LionsXII despite JDT limbo

His vast international experience and expertise in defensive organisation would have given the LionsXII a much-needed lift in their faltering Malaysian Super League (MSL) title defence.

But any hopes of Baihakki Khaizan returning to the Singapore outfit appear all but dashed.

This, after the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) confirmed yesterday that the centre-back will not be allowed to rejoin Fandi Ahmad's side on loan from his current club Johor Darul Takzim.

"League rules do not allow foreign players to play for more than one team in the same season," competition committee chairman Affendi Hamzah explained.

The Football Association of Singapore applied for Baihakki to join the LionsXII on loan after he was de-registered by JDT earlier this month, on the basis that he would be considered as a local player.

But Affendi clarified that, as long as the 30-year-old remains under contract to the big-spending outfit, FAM will continue to regard him as a foreign player.

He added that the only way Baihakki can play for the LionsXII this season is if he and JDT reached a mutual agreement to terminate his four-year contract, reportedly worth $30,000 a month.

The player has a week to decide on this option.

While Baihakki told The Straits Times that he will discuss his future with state Crown Prince and club president Tunku Ismail Idris, he added that he will likely "have to find other alternatives".

"My main concern is playing time," said Baihakki, who is expected to play a key role in Singapore's AFF Suzuki Cup defence later this year.

"I need to get games."

It is a scenario not likely envisioned by the Singapore international when he signed with JDT last November.

Named as one of three club captains alongside Malaysia internationals Aidil Zafuan and Amri Yahyah, he quickly established himself as a fan favourite across the Causeway and started nine of his new side's opening 10 fixtures.

It came as a shock, then, when it emerged on April 19 that he had been de-registered for the remainder of the season and would likely turn out for second-tier outfit JDT II next year.

An excellent reader of the game who is strong in the air, the experienced centre-back would have been a welcome addition to a young LionsXII team struggling for consistency this term.

Currently sixth in the 12-team MSL, seven points adrift of leaders Pahang, Fandi's side have conceded 15 goals in 14 league outings - as many as they did in the whole of last season's title-winning campaign.

But even with a LionsXII return stymied, Baihakki has no lack of suitors. Great Eastern-Yeo's S-League champions Tampines Rovers have expressed interest in taking him on loan - a move that the player continues to mull over.

"It's an option," Baihakki said of the potential return to a league he last played in in 2009. "In fact, I'm quite pleased that teams like Tampines have shown that they are willing to help me.

"But I've also had teams from Thailand calling me, so we'll just have to see how it goes."

This article was published on April 30 in The Straits Times.

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