Pahang are slowly but surely getting prominence on the national scene.
Two players, goalkeeper Khairul Azhan Khalid and midfield maestro Hafiz Kamal, reported for national team duties for the first time on Wednesday, bringing Pahang’s representation to four.
The duo were handed their first ever national call-up by interim national coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee.
Last year, defender Razman Roslan made it to the national team and kept his place this time around though it seems highly likely that he would be replaced in coming days due to a hamstring injury.
Speedy versatile midfielder-cum-striker Azamuddin Akil is already a main stay in the national team for a couple of years.
Pekan-born Fauzi Roslan broke into the team last year but could not convince then national coach Datuk K. Rajagobal for a place in the starting line-up. Fauzi was again left out by Kim Swee, but it would be no surprise if he and teammate R.Gopinathan earns a call-up in the near future.
In a recent interview with The Malay Mail, Kim Swee praised Khairul and saw a potential for him to be national No. 1 in the future.
“He has improved tremendously since last year. I have been watching him since the Malaysia Cup last year and I was impressed. His confidence level is high and he organises the backline well.
“Now, it’s a matter of how he handles the international stage. It is only a matter of time he knocks on the first 11. There would be keen competition for the regular place,” he said.
Khairul opted to remain humble when asked of the call-up.
“I never expected to be called-up so soon. I was shocked but am glad of the inclusion. Malaysia has very good goalkeepers… some experienced ones a well. I hope to gain as much experience as I could with the national team,” said Khairul.
Khairul in unlikely to feature Asian Cup qualifier against Yemen on March 5 as he stands behind the established Khairul Fahmi Che Mat and Farizal Marlias in the pecking order.
However, 26-year-old Hafiz could give Safiq Rahim, Badhri Radzi and Shakir Saari a run for their money.
Hafiz told Utusan recently, “I’m excited but I have a long way to go. I am not at best yet and have much to improve. I will keep pushing myself to raise my game. I will not waste the opportunity of being in the national squad.”