BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
I was made to wait for quite some time, before finally getting to interview the man who is currently in form at Selangor; Khyril Muhymeen Zambri.
Having been able to conduct similar interviews with the Red Giants' players in a more timely manner before, I was concerned that there has been miscommunication between me and the team's media officer, who assisted me in arranging the time.
But in the end Muhymeen emerged from the Selangor training centre dressing room looking for me, an hour after training ended, apologising:
"I'm so sorry for making you wait brother, I had to undergo light treatment first."
Just like that, my irritation at being made to wait dissipated, and I was embarrassed at having felt that way. This is after all a man who could have shined for Malaysia at the international stage after breaking into the team as a teenager, had it not been for recurring injuries that curtailed his progress.
Now undergoing an unexpected renaissance at the age of 32 with a club he signed for as a last-minute replacement earlier this season, extra care is understandably needed to ensure that he is able to continue starring for the club. Most recently, he scored in each of Selangor's last two group Malaysia Cup matches, and was picked by Goal as the man-of-the-match in both matches.
After all, it was an injury that put paid to his earlier hopes of signing for Selangor, back in 2016. He attended a trial under then head coach Zainal Abidin Hassan, but picked up an injury just days before he was supposed to be offered a contract.
Zainal Abidin Hassan. Photo by Ryan Lim
"At the time my contract with Negeri Sembilan had just ended, and as they did not qualify for the Malaysia Cup (Challenge Cup only started in 2018), I had not been playing for three months. I received a call from Zainal offering me a trial spot. The team was already at the high-intensity stage of their pre-season preparations, while I had not been training for three months.
"Needless to say, I couldn't catch up because I wasn't physically and mentally strong at the time. Things went well in training, but I started feeling a pain on Thursday, just a few days before I was scheduled to sign a contract on Sunday. I went for a medical test, and a knee injury was confirmed, and Selangor didn't offer me a contract. It was my fault for arriving unprepared, when I should have at least trained in the gym for a month. I took it for granted," revealed the flanker.
He however disagrees with the notion that his career has been held back by his injuries. According to him, it was the timing of the injuries that affected him worse.
'My injuries while playing for Negeri (in 2015) wasn't too bad," said the former Kedah player. "The one to my hamstring sidelined me for two months while the injury to my meniscus kept me out for three, so I was effectively out for the first half of the season. By the time I was back in action in the second half, I was nowhere near my best.
"After not getting a contract from Selangor, the AirAsia FC head coach [at the time] Nidzam Jamil offered me a spot on his team while undergoing rehabilitation. In hindsight I should have rested longer, but again I could only return to action in the later half of the season, helping them reach the promotion play-off semi-finals by scoring four, five goals.
"Things were better afterwards and I was injury-free, but after joining PKNS FC [for 2017 and 2018 seasons], I struggled to fight for a place on the team."
And for this he is grateful to Selangor boss B. Satiananthan, who put his faith in him by signing him as a last-minute replacement in February this year.
Muhymeen started the season playing for second-tier side Perlis, but after the Northern Lions were expelled due to the failure to pay their players and staff's wages, the league organiser allowed other clubs to sign their former players outside of the transfer window. And to his relief, Satiananthan came calling.
"At first Safiq Rahim called me saying Zainal (current Melaka United head coach) wanted to sign me, but I declined because I'd heard that Satiananthan wanted me too. And true enough, he did call me around two weeks later. The medical cleared me and I was signed.
Safiq Rahim. Photo by Sports Regime
"I had played under him before for Malaysia, but I was a much younger man at the time. My body could take a lot more punishment. But at this age, the coach shares my understanding of my own physical capabilities. I still have to put in extra effort in training as the modern game is much faster while having to compete with the much-fitter younger guys, and the coach has been massively helpful.
"When I arrived, he was understanding of my struggles in my first month; he said 'It's okay, you just get on with the training. I will play you when you are at 100 per cent.' And it was during [the Islamic fasting month of] Ramadan (around May this year) that he told me to train harder. It was against JDT (June 19) that I started and first scored for Selangor. And the coach has kept his trust in me up to today, praise Allah," he remarked.
Asked whether he harbours any hopes of making another appearance in a Malaysia shirt due to his resurgence, the two-time Malaysia Super League winner admitted it. He however wants it to be his final international appearance.
"To be honest, I think I'm only playing at 60, 70 percent now. I'm still looking to play better, at 100. Maybe then I'll get to play for Malaysia one last time, before announcing my retirement [from the national team]!" he revealed with a laugh.
Photo by 365 images
"But I do want to keep on playing, it's my passion. If I don't get to play, I'll just spend my time sitting at home thinking about playing. If no [professional] team wanted me, I'd turn up for any social league (amateur) club that wants me. I still want to play and I haven't thought of retiring."
On the question of his contract with Selangor which ends at the end of this year, Khyril remains undecided.
"I have been in discussions with the club regarding my future, but the terms; injury, wage and others have not been finalised. But I don't mind staying, to be honest.
"They came at a time when I was without a club, then gave me advanced pay due to my issues with Perlis. I'd be grateful and honoured if my contract is extended by the club," said Khyril.
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