Rise of Taj

Amirizdwan Taj Tajudin (24) celebrates after scoring a goal.

LAST year, when he appeared for ATM and Malaysia, he was a slow player and very nervy in defense. Whenever he came on as a substitute for Malaysia, I would wonder "What on earth is Rajagopal doing!"

However, 2013 is the year he made me eat my words! What a season he is having.

Taj first came into prominence in 2011 when he played in the Universiade Games in Shenzhen together with club and national colleague K.Rueben, Kelantan’s reserve goalkeeper Norhadi Ubaidillah and Sime Darby’s nippy winger Fahrul Razi Kamaruddin.

Last season, he was signed by B.Sathianathan to bolster ATM who were on a signing spree and hellbent on winning the Malaysian Premier League.

This season, he has improved a lot and is emerging as the ‘Malaysian Mertesacker’ due to his tall and lanky presence.

Last Tuesday, I went to watch Malaysia vs Bahrain and Amirizdwan was the best player of the night. Together with Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, he marshalled the defence well and won most of his aerial duels!

He was such a calming presence in defense. Impressed with his performance, I decided to talk to him but due to my niggly mobile coverage, I communicated with him via Whats App.

The man known as Taj said the support of his family, friends and senior teammates in ATM such as Hairuddin Omar, Mohd Shukor Adan, Rezal Zambery Yahya and Nizaruddin Yusof has helped him improve his form this season.

“I wanted to prove a point when I was dropped from the AFF Suzuki Cup squad last year.

“I was so frustrated. After that, I worked harder to prove that I have what it takes to play for the national side,” said the 27-year-old player from Kelantan.

“I was so excited when I got my first call-up to play for the national team. The excitement is always there to play for the national team since my first call up till now. In order to be in the squad for a long time, I will make sure I continue my steady rise and performed well in the black and yellow colours,” said the player who admires Negeri Sembilan’s skipper Norhafiz Zamani Misbah.

His club is currently in the semi-finals of the Malaysia Cup but his absence due to suspension certainly affected the side as they lost the first-leg 2-1 to reigning champions Kelantan.

He was sent-off against Lions XII in the dying minutes of the game but he performed like a Gladiator against the Super League champions.

“I trust my teammates. We will beat Kelantan and qualify for the final for the second time in a row,” hoping that his side will be able to make a comeback at Kota Baru.

He is not there yet but if he continues to produce top notch performances next season, he will be a mainstay of Malaysian football.

> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own

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