Kelantan fear that ace goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat may suffer from burnout even before the season ends.
The 22-year-old, who is known as “apek”, is a regular starter for state and national teams.
The Kelantan custodian started out as a rookie on the international scene last year and got his big break following injuries to regulars Mohd Farizal Marlias and Mohd Sharbinee Allawee at the Asian Games in Guangzhou last Novem-ber.
Since then, Khairul has dislodged the two seniors in the fight for the number one jersey. He became a household name when he played a pivotal role in Malaysia’s success in the Suzuki Cup Asean Football Federation (AFF) Championships in Jakarta last December.
Kelantan team manager Azman Ibrahim hopes that the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) will not tax the player.
“The player deserves some rest ... I think he has been playing non-stop since the beginning of the year. We are not being selfish, we are just concerned about his future. We don’t want to see his performance going down because of our doing. This boy has talent and we have to protect his future. Otherwise, he will be burned out one day,” said a concerned Azman from Kota Baru yesterday.
Besides the hectic domestic schedule, Khairul’s calendar also includes the Asian Zone final round (Under-22) qualifying campaign for the 2012 London Olympics, the SEA Games (Under-23) in Indonesia and the national senior team’s high-profile friendly against Australia early next month.
On Sept 21, Khairul played in the Asian Zone final round qualifying match against Japan in Fukuoka and returned home for the Malaysia Cup competition. On Saturday, he picked up a knock in his thigh against Johor FC and did not play in Kelantan’s last group match against Felda United on Tuesday.
Azman said that Khairul reported for centralised training with the national senior team at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya yesterday. The team are preparing for the friendly against Australia in Canberra on Oct 7.
“Fortunately, Khairul’s injury is not a bad one. Yesterday, we have received a fax stating that Khairul and three other players were needed for a warm-up tournament in Vietnam in preparation for the SEA Games. The warm-up tournament will be held in the middle of next month, at the same time as the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals and semi-finals,” said Azman.
He also said that Khairul had played more than any other national player since the beginning of the year.
Besides his obligations with Kelantan, Khairul has also been involved in either centralised training or competitions – which includes the friendlies against visiting English Premier League teams Arsenal and Liverpool – and Malaysia’s pre-World Cup matches against Pakistan and Hong Kong since the beginning of the year.
Meanwhile, a total of 26 players have been called up for the trip Down Under next month.