PETALING JAYA: Midfielder Mohd Hafiz Kamal is turning out to be a local hero, popping in late winners for Pahang this season.
The 27-year-old’s efforts have not gone unnoticed and he has been called up for the national team for the first time after being on the reserves list last year.
“It’s better late than never,” said an excited Mohd Hafiz on Wednesday.
“I am glad that my efforts have been recognised even though I know it will not be easy vying for a place in the national team with so many talented players. I am honoured and will give my best to impress the national coach,” said the Pantai Remis, Perak-born player.
Interim national coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee has called up 25 players for centralised training ahead of Malaysia’s final Asian Cup qualifier Group D match against Yemen at the Sheikh Tahnoon Stadium in Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates on March 5.
The bulk of the players called up are familiar faces, except for two new recuits from Pahang – goalkeeper Mohd Khairul Azhan and Mohd Hafiz, who reported for centralised training at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya on Wednesday.
Mohd Hafiz has commanded a regular role with Pahang, which lifted the Malaysia Cup after 21 years last season.
This year, he has become a crowd favourite – scoring late winners. He struck a stoppage time goal in Pahang’s 3-2 win over Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) in a Super League match at the Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan on Feb 7. On Tuesday, Mohd Hafiz’s last minute goal against Police (in their 2-1 win) put Pahang through to the FA Cup semi-finals.
“Every second counts. The game is not over until the final whistle,” said Mohd Hafiz.
In the national team, he will have to contend for a place with regulars – Safiq Rahim, Mohd Badhri Radzi, Junior Eldstal and Azidan Saruddin.
Meanwhile, national striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha has opted out of the national team’s preparation for Malaysia’s final Asian Cup qualifier Group D match against Yemen.
Kim Swee said the JDT striker had informed him verbally of his intentions to pull out of the squad due to personal reasons.
Kim Swee, who conducted his first work-out session at the Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya yesterday, said the player should have reported for training before opting out.