Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Kelantan goalie ready for national duty in Olympic qualifiers

Malaysian Under-23 goalkeeper and skipper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat is ready to put state duty aside as he focuses on Malaysia’s opening Asian Zone Olympic qualifying tie against Japan next month.

The goalkeeper played a key role in helping Kelantan win the Super League crown this season but will miss the Red Warriors’ Malaysia Cup title defence due to his commitment with the national Under-23 squad.

Khairul will miss Kelantan’s opening match against Premier League runners-up Sarawak at the State Stadium in Kuching on Sept 6 as well as those against Johor FC (Sept 10), Felda United (Sept 13) and Sarawak (Sept 18).

“The national duty is much more important for me ... I need to focus on my task with the Olympic squad first,” Khairul said.

“Only after the match against Japan will I start thinking about helping Kelantan in the Malaysia Cup competition.”

The Under-23 squad are in Group C with Japan, Bahrain and Syria for the final round of the Asian qualifiers.

Malaysia’s opening tie against Japan will be in Fukuoka on Sept 21, followed by home games against Syria (Nov 23) and Bahrain (Nov 27) at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

The national Under-23 trainees returned to Malaysia from their training-cum-playing stint in Slovakia on Sunday and will resume training at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya tomorrow.

They will play two friendly matches against Iraqi club Al-Arbil (Sept 9) and the Oman Olym­pic team (Sept 14) before leaving for Fukuoka on Nov 16.

The 22-year-old Khairul, who is also a first choice with the national senior team, believes that the Slovakia stint would hold them in good stead going into the match against Japan.

“The stint in Slovakia was a learning curve for us and it also showed that the competition level among the players is very high,” he said.

“We did well, winning five matches and losing two in Slovakia. We must now keep that momentum going against Japan.”

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