PETALING JAYA: National Under-22 striker N. Thanabalan (pic) has a heavy responsibility on his shoulders.
The 22-year-old aims to help Malaysia win the football gold at the Aug 19-30 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games and provide a better life for his family.
“I want to perform well to win honours for my country. I believe a good performance will improve my profile and put me on track to ease my family’s financial situation,” said Thanabalan.
Thanabalan became his family’s sole breadwinner at the tender age of 18. He joined the pro ranks by joining Premier League side Negri Sembilan after his father S. Nadarajah was paralysed from the chest down following a road accident in 2013.
Now he is supporting his housewife mother V. Thirusundari, 53, brother Keeteswaran, 18, and sister Keerthikaa, 13.
He featured for Negri in the President’s Cup and then in the Premier League. He was loaned out to FAM Cup side Felcra this season.
“It was hard to suddenly take charge of the family because I was not earning much as a youth player. We’re doing better financially now but my aim is to provide the best for my family,” said the Seremban local.
“I joined Negri because I need to take care of my family. I’m not a materialistic person but I need to earn more because my sister is still in school. And the cost to take care of my father is not cheap.”
Thanabalan’s immediate task is to make the team for the 2018 AFC Under-23 qualifiers in Bangkok from July 19-23.
He has a bright chance of making the 22-man final squad.
In the recent Under-22 squad’s tour of China, Thanabalan featured in all three friendlies. He managed to score a goal in the 3-0 win over the Guangzhou Evergrande reserves.
“I think I did quite well on the tour. I really hope to make the final squad for the AFC qualifiers and then SEA Games,” he said.
National Under-22 coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee is expected to finalise the squad for the qualifiers after the team’s friendly against Melaka United on Thursday.
Malaysia are in Group H with Thailand, Indonesia and Mongolia and Thanabalan believes the team have a good chance of making the 2018 Finals in China.
“Thailand is the team to beat in the group. But I think we can match them if we put on our best performance,” added Thanabalan.