By K. RAJAN
PETALING JAYA: Kelantan’s Khairul Fahmi Che Mat is ready to reclaim his spot as the national team’s No. 1 shot-stopper from Mohd Farizal Marlias.
Khairul was the undisputed No. 1 until he was dropped to the substitutes’ bench in last year’s AFF Suzuki Cup following his blunders that cost Malaysia a 3-0 defeat by Singapore in the opening match.
He was replaced by Farizal and the Perak custodian has since been coach Datuk K. Rajagopal’s first name in the starting 11.
Khairul is now back in contention for the No. 1 job after Farizal reported to the national training camp with an injured finger last Saturday.
Malaysia are preparing for the Asian Cup Group D qualifying match against Qatar in Doha on Feb 6. The other teams are Bahrain and Yemen.
But the 24-year-old Khairul, a key member of Kelantan’s treble success last season, will have to compete with in-form Selangor goalkeeper Norazlan Razali.
“It’s a new year … it will be a fresh start for me. I’m ready to fight to regain my spot as the team’s No. 1 goalkeeper,” said Khairul.
“The coach has not decided on the squad for the match and there’s a fierce competition among the players in all positions. Everyone is very motivated to play for the team.
“The team have other good goalkeepers too. I believe this competition is good and healthy for the team,” added Khairul.
Malaysia will be flying to Doha today to play Middle East giants Iraq in a warm-up match on Friday.
“We have lost a number of key players through injuries and we also have a short time to prepare. I hope the team can gel fast as a team,” said Khairul.
Meanwhile, Rajagopal has named a 24-member team for the friendly against Iraq. A player will be dropped before the match against Qatar.
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