By Muhammad Izzat Akmal
"I'm very proud to be listed together with the best players in Asia."
Those were the first words coming from Nik Shahrul during the meeting with Goal Malaysia after he helped Kelantan to a convincing win over the LionsXII on last Saturday.
"It is the best title I've ever achieved since I started playing football."
The 23-year-old defender had been dominant in Bojan Hodak's squad since the beginning of this season. He also helped the Red Warriors retain the FA Cup this season with his solid defending performance. Nik also played an important role in maintaining a clean sheet in their last five matches.
"I can't do this on my own; I’m lucky to play with players like Obinna [Nwaneri], Piya [Badri Radzi] and Apek [Khairul Fahmi]. They were watching my back, guiding me. Besides, working under a great coach like Bojan Hodak was absolutely helpful in keeping me fit for games," Nik revealed.
"This award will keep me moving to be a more successful player. It was great to be named in line with the Asian stars, and that will give me motivation to be more like them," he added.
Nik Shahrul Azim, also locally known as Poknik, will join the Malaysian national squad this July, and he feels that his accolade would get him noticed by K. Rajagopal. Poknik will be part of Harimau Malaya that will play against Chelsea on July 21.
"I’m not targetting to play against Chelsea, but if I'm selected, I’ll do my best not to disappoint the fans," Nik enthused.
For the record, Nik Shahrul was playing with Kelantan in the President’s Cup, before his talent was spotted by Hodak to be included in the senior team. His performances have been improving consistently and he has certainly earned his stripes to be part of the Red Warriors' first-XI.