PETALING JAYA: Kelantan defender Nik Shahrul Azim Abdul Halim is ready to make amends for not joining the national Under-23 team last year.
National Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee has called-up nine new players to the squad, whose job is to defend the SEA Games gold medal in Myanmar next year, and Shahrul has once again made the list.
Shahrul was called to join the Harimau Muda A squad on their Australian tour last year but declined due to personal reasons.
The Kelantan President’s Cupper, who was promoted to the senior squad when first choice defenders Mohd Farisham Ismail and Mohd Rizal Fahmi Abdul Rosid were injured, went on to make the rightback position his own.
The 22-year-old defender’s good work in helping Kelantan win the M-League treble didn’t go unnoticed as national coach Datuk K. Rajagopal called him up to join the national training camp ahead of the AFF Suzuki Cup from Nov 24-Dec 22.
The Rantau Panjang lad is hoping that Kelantan will allow him to join the national Under-23 squad.
“I was devastated that I couldn’t answer the call last year due to a personal problem. I really hope to make up for it this time,” said Shahrul.
“I’m aware that I still have a contract with Kelantan until 2014 but I’m 22 this year and this is the last chance for me to play in the SEA Games.
“I need to get experience playing overseas to further improve and will return to Kelantan after my stint with the Under-23 side.”
The other players called up by Kim Swee are Mohd Zubir Azmi (Terengganu), Mohd Azrif Nasrulhaq Badrul Hisham (PKNS FC), Rozaimi Abdul Rahman (Sabah) and Perak duo D. Kenny Pallraj and Mohd Nuridzuan Abu Hassan.
Kim Swee said he understood the plight of the teams who had to release their prized players.
“I really hope the teams will release them as this is a national call-up although some of them still have contracts with their respective teams,” said Kim Swee.
“The players have till Wednesday to talk to their respective teams.
“I will have to look for replacements if they can’t make it.
“It’s more like a season long loan. My plan is to get the players together for a longer period to have the best team possible for the SEA Games.”
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