FORMER double champions Old La Sallians Association of Klang (Olak-PKT) are looking for a winning start when they meet Nur Insafi of Penang in the Division Two playoffs at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil today.
Olak were the Division Two Group B champions, while Nur Insafi the Division Two Group A champions -- making it a sizzling encounter.
"Our target this year was to become champions in our group and we achieved it, now we want to play in Division One next year, and to achieve that, we need a winning start against Nur Insafi," said Olak manager Joseph de Silva.
The top two teams in each of the Second Division pools qualified to play in the second round where the top four teams will not only play in the overall championships but also gain promotion to Division One for next season.
And it looks like Olak will achieve their target, as Nur Insafi are in dire straits.
Nur Insafi came through the group stages of Division Two with a perfect record, winning all their matches but despite a proud record, the Penang team are not counting on progressing to the knockout stages via the playoffs.
Nur Insafi travelled to Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday with only 16 players as those in school had to stay back to attend classes.
And after their first match against Olak-PKT, the numbers will be reduced to 14 as two players will travel back to Penang to attend classes.
Being a privately funded club, Nur Insafi also face financial woes as the trip for the playoffs cost them RM10,000.
"We will just troop onto the pitch and give it our best shot. It is unfair to have us play weekday matches when it was agreed that this will not be the case by MHC initially," said Nur Insafi coach Thaitchana Murthi.
"We wrote in to appeal but were told the decision was made and we are to adhere to it. So, I am left with an under strength side as parents are reluctant to let their kids miss school."
Thaitchana said that despite these odds he believed the players had what it takes to progress.
"If we qualify for the quarters then it will be the same issue, release of players and finance," he added.
And Olak have 10-goal scorer Mawardi Hamrin, 18, to do the damage.
"The boy is from Sabah and is the top scorer in Division Two, even though he is only 54kg and stands at 164cm he is a cracker. He is small in built, but has a big heart to score. I believe he will be heavily marked tomorrow (today) but he has the knack of getting out of sticky situations with ease," said De Silva.
Olak, according to De Silva, also have several other strikers to do the damage.
"We have many players who can score, and So I believe asking for a winning start from my players is not to big a request. The players know, as a privately funded club, we need to show results to keep the sponsors believing in us," said De Silva.
GROUP X GROUP Y
NURISAFI POLITEKNIK -KPM
OLAK-PKT BAKAT MSSK/PHK
BJSS MSP PAHANG
TODAY: Nur Insafi v Olak-PKT (5pm, National Stadium II), MSP-Pahang v Bakat-MSSK (7pm, national Stadium II).
Tomorrow: Olak -PKT v BJSS (5pm, National Stadium II), Bakat MSSK v Politeknik-KPM (7pm, national Stadium II).
Saturday: BJSS v Nur Insafi (5pm, National Stadium, II), Politeknik-KPM v MSP-Pahang (7pm, national Stadium, II).