Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ivica Raguz, Jure Ere, Velimir Crljen - The Triumvirate

Ivica Raguz
Nationality: Croatian 

Club: SAFFC (1996-1997) Woodlands Wellington (1999-2000)

Position: Midfielder 

S-league: 1996 Pioneer Series, 1997
Singapore Cup: 1997
FA Cup: 1997
Player of the Year: 1996

Jure Ere
Nationality: Croatian 

Club: SAFFC (1996-1998) Sembawang Rangers (1999)

Position: Forward 

S-league: 1996 Pioneer Series, 1997, 1998
Singapore Cup: 1997
FA Cup: 1997
Top Scorer: 1996, 1997 

Velimir Crljen
Nationality: Croatian

Club: SAFFC (1996-1998)

Position: Midfielder 

S-league: 1996 Pioneer Series, 1997, 1998
Singapore Cup: 1997
FA Cup: 1997

Players History
The Warriors domination of the S-league can be attributed to many factors and one of them is their choice of foreign players.

While the likes of Police FC, Woodlands Wellington and Tampines Rovers had their terrible experience with their Brazilians, British and Romanians experiment, the Warriors got it right with their Croatians triumvirate from the word go.

The best football played in the S-league debut year was in the Pioneer Series and the triumvirate from SAFFC had played a significant part.

With Velimir Crljen and Ivica Raguz in midfield and Jure Eres upfront in attack, the Warriors were unstoppable and a joy to watch for any fans. It was always one touch football along with relentless movement and the rest of the league just had no answer to such scintillating football.

One of the memorable goals that showcase their rule over domestic football scene came in the matchup against Geylang United at the National Stadium with the three, aided by another two Croatians, passing the ball around the Eagles midfield and defence - which was jam-packed with Singaporean and Iranian internationals - as though they were not there before Eres finally shot (or should I say pass) it into the net with the entire opposition team and spectators totally dumb-struck by the number of passes they conducted among themselves.

With such showcase of their enormous talents, it was no wonder then that SAFFC will go onto capture the Pioneer Series title easily as well as not losing a single match in the process.

Jure Eres also notched the Top Scorer Award with 21 goals coming from 28 matches but without the bullets supplied by Crljen and Raguz, he will have never done it.

It was a triumvirate and without one or two of the other, the partnership was never going to be a success.

After all, it cannot be described as a coincidence that all three were nominated for the Player of the Year Award – which Raguz will go on to deservedly win it.

However, they were hit with bad news when before the Grand Final, Jure Eres was injured and while the forward did finally make it to the match, he was not fit enough to play a significant part, especially after he re-injured himself again, on the pitch.

Crljen and Raguz were still there to provide the flair and bullets but there were just nobody there to apply the finishing touch to all their hard work.

They could only watch as Geylang United won the first S-league title.

The triumvirate will have to make up for it in the next season and were they in a rush to do that as they trampled on all oppositions in the 1997 season.

Up until the title race was decided, the Warriors had not lost a single game and they were head and tail above all the opposition in Singapore with the newly-crowned League champions also snatching the League Cup – renamed the Singapore Cup – and FA Cup.

It was then no surprise when Eres won the Top Scorer Award again although this time, neither of the trio won the Player of the Year Award even as they were nominated again.

Still, they will not be considered legend if they did not spread their name and fame beyond our shore as in the, now defunct, Cup Winners’ Cup, the triumvirate will display their class again as they aided the Warriors in crushing Hong Kong Side Instant Dict.

At that point in history, the Hong Kong League had always been held in the belief they were a better league with the better clubs and players than ASEAN ones as they had the history and financial backing but even they were wooed by the wizardry of the triumvirate.

The Hong Kong supporters and media lauded the performance of the triumvirate; especially Raguz whom they claimed was the best player they have seem in a decade thus asking the question why Raguz did not win his second Player of the Year Award.

It was after all quite an achievement as the Hong Kong League, at that point, had the pick of the players from more famous region of Europe and Asia.

Now at their peak, history will show the way is down and this was the case as Raguz was lured to the Hong Kong League by a package that can be described as enormous while Eres was surprisingly released by the Warriors.

Only Crljen was left and he was always considered the most junior member of the triumvirate but now, he started to showcase his own talent as he spearheaded the Warriors challenge in 1998.

One of the most memorable moments of that season was a goal scored by Crijen that curled in straight from the corner he took.

That was just a small showcase of the ability he possessed but he needed help and the Warriors will give it to him as they restore part of the triumvirate at the club with Jure Eres hired again after the club unable to find a reliable goal source to successfully replace their two-time Top Scorer.

The duo act was never as deadly as the triumvirate but it was enough to clinch the Warriors their second league title in succession.

However, signs were there that the era of the triumvirate was over when the Warriors was crushed in the FA Cup semi-final and then the Singapore Cup Final by Tanjong Pagar United.

Crljen was gone the next season while Jure struggled for one more season (OK, a few more games) with Sembawang Rangers. Even the great Ivan Raguz, who returns in late 1999 with Woodlands Wellington, was unable to rebuild the past.

Their rule were brief but anybody fortunate enough to see the abilities of the triumvirate will be astonish to see what they can do with the ball at their feet and that why, there may never be another triumvirate like them for the Warriors or any other clubs.

1 comment:

aaa said...

jure eres has two sons even better ..