Rise from the ashes

  • Football
  • Friday, 03 Jul 2020

Forgotten man: Akram (right) was a key player for Harimau Malaya in the AFF Suzuki Cup two years ago.

PETALING JAYA: From a star player to playing a low-key role, the fortunes have indeed changed for defensive midfielder Akram Mahinan in the national team within two years. But Akram wants to regain the prominent spot again.

He was one of the key players for the Harimau Malaya team who lost to Vietnam in the final of the AFF Suzuki Cup two years ago.

He was one of the top passers among the 10 teams in the tournament.

The statistics showed that he attempted 309 passes and completed 254 in four games – bringing his success rate to a remarkable 82% and making about 82 passes every 90 minutes.

After the 2018 campaign, he joined PKNS last year, but inconsistent performances and the team’s off-field issues saw the player playing a bit-part role in the national team as Nor Azam Azih and Brendan Gan took centrestage during the 2022 World Cup-2023 Asian Cup Group G qualifying round.

This year, he left the Super League to join Premier League side Kuala Lumpur but his move left his fans disgruntled.

Despite playing for the lower tier team, Akram is hoping to impress so that he can play a bigger role with the national team in the qualifiers set to be held in November and December this year.

“I just have to focus on what I need to do. There will be lots of comments swirling around, some good, some bad. I always believe that in football, anything can happen if you have the right mindset, ” said the 27-year-old Akram.

“I never really bothered with the negative remarks. My legs are always ready for the national team. Mentally and physically, I know I am ready – nothing can stop me!

“Now that we have returned to training, I am looking forward to picking up the pace and giving my all once the league resumes. Just because I have gone down one rung, that does not mean I will not be available for selection, ” said Akram.

He admitted that watching the likes of Brendan and Nor Azam has given him the impetus to further improve his game as the national team now play at a much higher and faster pace compared to two years ago.

“If I want to enter the squad, I must cope with the high pace and intensity. We have a reliable team that can understand the coach’s (Tan Cheng Hoe) game.

“Right now, I feel good, and I have a feeling that I can cope with that pace. However, I know I have lots to improve, and that will be done through training sessions with my club side.”

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