Armed Forces skipper Hairuddin Omar (right) in a file photo. In his 13-year footballing career, this is the first time he is in a team facing relegation.
PETALING JAYA: Armed Forces skipper Hairuddin Omar faces the toughest challenge of his playing career.
The 34-year-old football nomad said he has never been in such a desperate situation with his previous teams since 1999.
“In the past it was trying to win Cups, League titles and promotion slots for teams but this is the first time in my 13-year career that I am faced with a test for survival ... to escape relegation,” said Hairuddin on Thursday.
The soldiers are languishing at the bottom of the 12-team standings with 12 points from 15 matches. Coach B. Sathianathan has an uphill task with seven remaining fixtures to save the season. The bottom two teams will be relegated.
Hairuddin said they are down but not out ... yet.
“The bottom four teams are in the danger zone, too. We can save the season if we start collecting points in the remaining matches. It has been tough on the coach, who has to re-organise the team due to key players being out with injuries and suspensions throughout the season.
“I am down with a knee injury and have missed the last three games. This is my worst season. I have played in different positions – defence, midfield and forward – because of a depleted squad due to injuries.
“But I am optimistic we can escape relegation,” said Hairuddin.
Besides Forces, the other teams lurking in the danger zone are Perak (13 points), PKNS FC (14) and T-Team (16). Hairuddin will be hoping for a change of fortune when they host T-Team at the Selayang Stadium on Saturday.
Hairuddin played a pivotal role in Forces’ promotion to the Super League after being crowned Premier League champions in 2012.
He has won the Malaysia Cup winner’s medal four times with three different teams – Terengganu (2001), Negri Sembilan (2009 and 2011) and Kelantan (2010).
His biggest achievement was guiding Terengganu (2001) and Kelantan (2010) to historic maiden wins in the Malaysia Cup.
He also skippered Pahang to the inaugural Super League title in 2004 and won the Malaysia Cup twice with Negri Sembilan, including scoring a spectacular scissor-kick goal against Terengganu in the 2011 final.