BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
The cat is out of the bag; Kelantan do not require the service of their long-serving custodian Khairul Fahmi Che Mat anymore.
Newly appointed Syrian head coach Fajr Ibrahim has sought to make major roster changes at the Red Warriors, axing players left and right ahead of the mid-season transfer window; with the support of club president Bibi Ramjani Ilias Khan, who has been more and more desperate to turn their season around.
No one can blame them, when in 2017 they needed a final matchday win to secure Super League survival, while this season they are currently second last after only one win, two draws and three defeats.
The usually demure Bibi didn't mince her words in an interview with Fox Sports Asia, confirming that Fahmi and 35-year old club skipper Badhri Radzi are on their way out of the club.
“Both Apek (Khairul Fahmi) and Piya (Badhri) are not in the coach’s plans, so we will release them if there are offers. Previously I have changed coaches to please the senior players, but now I have to respect the coach.”
Bibi Ramjani. Photo by Zulhilmi Zainal
Following his AFF Cup win with Malaysia as a 21-year old back in 2010, Fahmi's career trajectory followed that of the club's. The next few years he won major domestic titles at the club; back to back MSL titles in 2011 and 2012, the 2012 Malaysia Cup, and the 2013 FA Cup.
But as finances dried up the Red Warriors could not continue their winning run, and Fahmi wasn't the same man who won the AFF Cup as a 21-year old. He rarely turned in a performance that saved his team, and most of the times he played no better than his teammates.
In 2017, his number one spot at Kelantan was usurped by young goalkeeper Ramadhan Hamid, with Ramadhan making 10 league appearances to Fahmi's 11. In the mean time, he has lost out his place in the starting line-up for Malaysia to younger goalkeepers such as JDT's Farizal Marlias and Perak's Hafizul Hakim.
All the while, Fahmi remained at the club, even when the club reportedly missed payment of their players' wages.
But unlike Badhri who is in the twilight of his playing days, Fahmi is only 29, the age when most top goalkeepers are still in their peak.
And fortunately for the Malaysia international, there has been interest shown in his service by another MSL side Kuala Lumpur (KL), who have been performing relatively well in their first season back in the top tier, but hampered by their goalkeepers' inconsistensies.
Playing for a plucky side which managed to surprise JDT and Kedah, and recently almost performed a comeback against Selangor in the FA Cup, may just revive Fahmi's flagging career.
Furthermore, KL's roster includes former Kelantan man Indra Putra Mahayuddin and Malaysia international Zaquan Adha Abdul Radzak, which should facilitate Fahmi's adaptation in the team.
Kuala Lumpur. Photo from KLFA
And if that move falls through, there is still an alternative. PKNS FC, now coached by Datuk Rajagobal Krishnasamy; the same coach who led Malaysia to the 2010 AFF Cup title, have been performing well this season, but lack that star power in the goalkeeping department, which Fahmi's reputation can offer.
Who knows, playing alongside Mahali Jasuli and Safee Sali under Rajagobal may just breath a new life into Fahmi's career.