When the Malaysia national team squad was announced on Friday, there was a buzz created by a name in the list, a name that jumps out immediately as the sole player from the second tier, Premier League that was selected.
PKNP FC are going strong in the second division and are still within a shout of claiming one of two promotion spots to the Super League, and at the heart of their promotion charge is none other than wide forward, Shahrel Fikri.
His just rewards for a remarkable first season in the Premier League was a call-up from Nelo Vingada to the Malaysia squad that prepares for the crucial upcoming Asian Cup qualifiers against Hong Kong as well as three other international friendlies.
"I'm thankful for this opportunity. I was surprised but happy to have done it with PKNP. I'm thankful to my parents who always tell me to just do my best and I'm very happy that my hard work has been rewarded," said a beaming Shahrel after PKNP's match against Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
The 23 year old has scored a total of 16 goals this season in all competitions. His 10 goals in the league makes him the highest local players in the top scorer's list as the nine other players ahead of him in the list are foreign players.
The forward usually operates out on the left hand side in a front three system that Abu Bakar Fadzim uses for PKNP. His runs and timing are key to him getting a high amount of goals, as is his prowess from free kicks.
Abu Bakar couldn't help but be delighted that one of his charges have been spotted by the national team and it's not only a vindication for the efforts of Shahrel but of the overall team as well.
"For us, this is our first year and we have opportunities to promote young players. It's an honour to have one of our own selected. We are thrilled for Shahrel," said Abu Bakar on Friday as well.
Apart from the Hong Kong match, Shahrel could also be in line to feature against Syria, Macau and Myanmar in the aforementioned friendlies. One of his main challengers for a place in the team could well be another player based in Ipoh, in Nazrin Nawi who plays for Perak.