S-League to review procedures after error over Ruzaini's eligibility

Football players (from left) Shahir Hamzah, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Emmeric Ong, Nigel Navin Vanu, Shahdan Sulaiman and Ruzaini Zainal.

SINGAPORE - The Great Eastern-Yeo's S-League will review its player-monitoring procedures, after the second case this season of a club paying the price for fielding ineligible players.

On Saturday, defending champions Tampines Rovers saw their 1-0 win over Malaysia's Harimau Muda reversed after it emerged that new signing Ruzaini Zainal had played in the match despite being suspended.

"The error occurred when the number of yellow cards accumulated by Ruzaini was not monitored properly by both the S-League and Tampines," a spokesman for the league said.

"The S-League has taken immediate steps to review the processes and work closely with the clubs to prevent a recurrence."

Ruzaini, 24, had collected three yellow cards before his mid-season move from Warriors FC and picked up his fourth of the season on his Stags debut - which meant a one-match suspension.

But while it is believed that league officials notify clubs of their ineligible players before every match, Ruzaini's name was not highlighted ahead of Tampines' July 3 clash in Pasir Gudang.

This was the second time this season that an S-League club have had their result overturned for a similar reason.

In March, the Courts Young Lions saw their first four matches recorded as 0-3 losses after fielding players who had not received the necessary national service clearance.

As for the latest incident, Stags coach Tay Peng Kee admitted that it was an administrative oversight on his club's part.

"It is our responsibility to track the players' bookings," the former Singapore international said. "But the mistake has been made and there's nothing we can do."

Ruzaini himself revealed that he did not know how many yellow cards he was on until Tampines management informed him several days after the Harimau match.

"I felt really bad, like I was dragging the team down," he said.

Indeed, he cut a lonely figure at the Clementi Stadium on Sunday even as his side recorded a 4-1 league victory over Home United in a match that was interrupted by the lightning warning system.

The win, thanks to a brace by Aleksandar Duric and one apiece from Kunihiro Yamashita and Khairul Amri, restored Tampines' four-point lead over Albirex Niigata to top the 12-team standings.

But even as his side close in on a third successive league title, former Young Lions and Warriors man Ruzaini is aware of what is expected of him as he looks to establish himself as a Stag.

"In a way, I still owe the team three points," he stressed. "The next time I get to play, I will go all out to get them back."