PETALING JAYA: Towering defender Khair Jones is ready to stake a strong claim in the national football team following a shock call-up.
The 26-year-old only joined Premier League side Malacca this year after featuring for Hawke’s Bay United in the New Zealand semi-pro league in the 2015-2016 season.
Khair has been impressive for leaders Malacca, prompting national coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee to include him in the 25-player squad for the two-match Asian Cup playoffs against Timor Leste. Both the matches – on June 2 and June 6 – will be played at the Larkin Stadium in Johor Baru.
Khair is a centreback but equally adept as a leftback. He is expected to fight with first-choice leftback Fazly Mazlan of Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) for a spot in the team.
“It’s a dream for anyone to play for their country. But I didn’t expect to get this chance so soon because I just started playing for Malacca and that too in the Premier League,” said the 1.91m tall Khair after reporting to the national training camp at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya on Sunday.
“My target this season is to help Malacca win promotion to the Super League and establish myself as a top player. Getting the call-up is a big bonus for me.
“I’m enjoying my football with Malacca. My speed and height is definitely a big advantage but I think I can still improve as a player.
“I take this call-up as learning curve as I’ll get to play and train with the best players in the country.
“I certainly hope to impress the coach to get a place in the starting XI,” added the Seremban-born Khair, who picked up football at the age of seven in New Zealand.
Besides the Asian Cup playoffs, Kim Swee is also preparing for the AFF Suzuki Cup in November.