LionsXII captain Isa reunites with Sundram at Tampines
Tampines Rovers have signed up LionsXII captain Isa Halim a few hours before the end of the Great Eastern Yeo's S.League Friday transfer deadline.
The 29-year-old defensive midfielder has been a mainstay of the LionsXII since their return to the Malaysia Super League (MSL) in 2012, winning the 2013 league title and the recent FA Cup along the way.
He took over the captaincy at the start of last season when Shahril Ishak left to join Johor Darul Ta'zim II, but has seen limited playing time due to a long-term injury that kept him out for most part of the season.
Isa rejoins his 2013 MSL winning coach V. Sundramoorthy, who is now in charge of the S.League giants.
Tampines also signed Brazilian goalkeeper Rodrigo Fernando Pacheco de Oliveira
The Stags have had a poor season so far, languishing in fifth position with four defeats, an identical number of wins and two draws.
Their TNP League Cup campaign got off to a bad start on Friday night when they were held to a 2-2 draw against Balestier Khalsa in Group A, making their chances of qualifying for the knockout stages slim.
Isa will join his new teammates on Sunday, after he returns from Kuala Lumpur with the LionsXII who suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of PDRM FA.
"It was the hardest decision to leave LionsXII." Isa told ESPN FC. "I've started with them since 2012 and they are more like a family to me than just a team. I've had very good memories with the team. But as a player, I had to make a decision because not being able to play week in and week out got me thinking. Ultimately, I just want to be happy and enjoy playing again and regain my form."
Isa also revealed that there was one other S.League club who was interested in him. But he opted for Tampines because of his close bond with Tampines head coach V. Sundramoorthy, assistant coach Aleksandar Duric and some of his former teammates such as Fahrudin Mustafic, Indra Sahdan and Noh Alam Shah.
"Getting out was not easy since I had interest from Warriors FC and Tampines. Both clubs have good coaches and have former teammates of mine in their ranks. As the transfer deadline came closer, I had to decide quickly and opted for Tampines because I've worked with Sundram before and played my best football under him.
"I would like to thank everyone in the LionsXII setup from coach Fandi [Ahmad] to my teammates and, most importantly, the fans. And not forgetting the people at FAS (Football Association of Singapore) who have been supporting me since day one.
"But I'm now eager to join my new teammates like Farra (Mustafic) who, I know, wants to win every game. This pressure is good for me and the team. And, of course, Tampines have many senior players like Indra, Alam Shah and even Aleks (Duric), who is a former teammate of mine."
Isa hasn't been called up by the Singapore national team since the turn of the year. He will be hoping to force his way back into Bernd Stange's national setup and add to his two AFF Suzuki Cup titles which he won in 2007 and 2012.