Veteran defender Khairul seeks greener pastures with Melaka

Lebanon's Hassan Ali Saad (red) try to fight the ball with Malaysia's Khairul Helmi Johari during the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 at Larkin Stadium in Johorv Baru o n June 13. Pic by ABDUL RAHMAN EMBONG/The Star.

PETALING JAYA: It’s only natural for veteran centreback Khairul Helmi Johari to “go green” after being released by Kedah. No, this has nothing to do with vegetarian diets.

The 32-year-old Khairul has become synonymus with the green and yellow jersey of the Red Eagles after serving them for 15 years. And he gets to stick with that familiar colour after signing for Melaka, another side with an environmentally-friendly jersey.

“I’ve fought for the green and yellow jersey for a long time. I’ve always been passionate when I wear the Kedah jersey. But now, I’ll still be wearing green with Melaka, though it’s green and white, ” said Khairul, who was also pursued by Police and Petaling Jaya City.

“It’s a new enviornment I’m looking forward to. Melaka also have a legendary former player Zainal (Abidin Hassan) as coach and some seasoned campaigners. It’s a side capable of winning something.”

The Sungai Petani-born Khairul made his professional debut in 2006 and has won every domestic trophy with Kedah.

He boasts two Super League winners’ medals (2007 and 2008), three Malaysia Cups (2007,2008 and 2016), four FA Cups (2007,2008,2017 and 2019), two Premier League titles (2006 and 2015) and a Charity Shield in 2017.

Khairul, however, seemed to have slowed down in the last two seasons, being used more as a substitute.

He is now highly motivated to win a first XI place in the Mousedeer cast.

“The coaches and players have received me well and I aim to achieve something with this team.”

Besides Khairul, Melaka have also snapped up wingers Wan Zaharulnizam Wan Zakaria and S. Kumaahran. They are also close to sealing the deal for two foreigners - Philippines international midfielder Manuel Ott and Croatian striker Ivan Lendric.

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