BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
The 2017 South-East Asian (SEA) Games is just around the corner and preparations are heating up across all sports, not least football. Frank Bernhardt takes his Under-22 squad to the Dubai Cup where they will come up against China, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Khairil Anuar is one of the 23 players on the plane to Dubai with the Perak midfielder is one of the first names on the Bernhardt's team sheet. Speaking to Goal before the last training session on Thursday evening before their flight out on Friday, Khairil is well aware what this tournament can do to their preparations.
"For this Dubai Cup, we want to prepare from the physical and mental aspects. Our understanding are growing and we want to use these matches to further improve on it," said the player who is more affectionately known as 'Beto'.
Malaysia has a history of winning the gold medal in the football event at the SEA Games and Khairil himself knew that it was something that he aspires to achieve after seeing how the Malaysia team did in three editions ago.
"For me, the 2011 one is the one that sticks out. The one that Baddrol Bakhtiar won. I was only 16 then. In my heart, I know I want to play in the SEA Games and be like him. We will work hard to achieve our target. We are the host this year and football is the mother of all gold medals and that's what we want to get," added Khairil.
A tough-tackling central midfielder who isn't afraid to carry the ball forward when he needs to, things hasn't been plain sailing for him at his Perak side. Khairil admits that his lack of playing time does affect his performance with the national U-22 team but recent changes at the Bos Gaurus has his looking on the bright side once again.
"It's tough when I don't play for Perak. So when I come here, I have to regain my match fitness all over again. So now, things are looking on the up for me at Perak and hopefully it will be better as the season goes on," explained Khairil.
While the team isn't expect to win the Dubai Cup, playing against supposedly more superior teams will give Bernhardt the chance to further rectify the weaknesses in the squad as Malaysia aims to win arguably the most-wanted gold medal at the 2017 SEA Games.