S-League: Go ber-Zerka, Woo the fans

Home United’s Lee Kwan Woo (left) and Tanjong Pagar’s Monsef Zerka (right) lit up the S-League with their skill and style last year.

SINGAPORE - One bagged the S-League Player of the Year award, the other won the hearts of fans with his team-first mentality and cool finishing.

Home United's Lee Kwan Woo and Tanjong Pagar United forward Monsef Zerka were the brightest marquee signings last season, and they are determined to avoid falling flat in their second season in Singapore football.

"The first season in the league is about discovery: Learning what the style of football is in Singapore and adapting to that," said former Moroccan international, Zerka, who is aware of the pitfalls that await players in their second season at a new club.

"I now know what I can't do and I have to change, but defenders in the league also know how I play."

"Maybe I'll score less but give more assists, but none of that really matters because my target is still the same as it was last year - to help the team achieve good results," added the 32-year-old, who helped Tanjong Pagar finish sixth with 36 points, 15 behind second-placed Home.

The marquee player scheme allows each club to sign a star who is not subject to the S-League's $10,000-a-month salary cap.

Zerka and Lee bagged 12 goals each last year, but the South Korean added a RHB Singapore Cup winner's medal - beating Zerka's Jaguars 4-1 in the final - to his Player of the Year gong. He is looking to better that this season.

"I am expecting a much tougher competition this year, there will be players who are better prepared as well as unknown new signings from other clubs that we have yet to face," said Lee, 35.

"I hope to win the S-League title with Home and progress as far as possible in the AFC Cup."

Home qualified for the second-tier Asian competition by winning the RHB Singapore Cup.ALONE

Away from football, Zerka is facing a personal challenge of his own.

He will not have his wife and four-year-old twin daughters to go home to after training at the Queenstown Stadium.

Zerka's daughters are enrolled in a school in France and his family will fly here only during their school holidays. But his difficult personal situation could become one that the club benefit from.

"Last year, my family was here and I could focus on my football. In a way, perhaps I can concentrate on football as well this year because I won't have anything else to do as they won't be around," he said.

His positive outlook is shared by former Suwon Bluewings player, Lee.

"Perhaps the only regret I have from last year was not being able to win the S-League title with Home," he said.

"I think I am getting better with every match and I will continue to do my best and help Home win as many trophies as possible."

shamiro@sph.com.sg


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