Former French U20 player completes Sabah’s foreign quota

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Masaya Jitozono

# Midfielder Stefiane Choubani beefs up the Rhinos 

# Rhinos also sign up Japan’s Masaya Jitozono from S-League champions Niigata

# Sabah to play PKNS FC in friendly on Jan 13 in Likas


By Rizal Abdullah

Two Frenchmen, a Japanese and a Croatian are the four foreign players who will plot Sabah’s challenge for honours in this year’s M-League.

The two Frenchmen are former France Under-20 international, 26-year-old attacking midfielder Sofiane Choubani and striker Jonathan Behe while the Japanese is Masaya Jitozono and Croatian defender Igor Cerina.

Cerina is not new to the M-League as he donned Sabah colours last year and has been retained for another season.

Sabah had a miserable season in the M-League last year – finishing a low ninth in the 12-team Premier League with only five wins and five draws and 12 defeats for 20 points and failed to qualify for the Malaysia Cup. In the FA Cup the Rhinos were knocked out in the third round.

Behe and Masaya played in Singapore’s S-League last season. Masaya played a major role in helping his club Albirex Niigata win a treble in the S-League – the league title, the Singapore Cup, the Singapore League Cup and also the Singapore Community Shield. Jonathan played for Warriors FC and scored 19 goals for his club in 23 matches.

Sabah’s new head coach is Frenchman Steve Vilmiaire who has a young squad with an average age of 25 years. There are also a couple of veterans in this year’s squad, including the much traveled Sumardi Hajalan and Alto Linus.

The Rhinos last played in the elite Super League in 2012.

As part of their preparations for the new season Sabah have also lined up a friendly match against newly promoted PKNS FC. The Selangor outfit under coach E. Elavarasan finished runners-up to Malacca United in the Premier League and were runners-up in the FA Cup last season.

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