Shahrul has future in his hands as Speedy Tigers’ youngest keeper

PETALING JAYA: The inclusion of Che Shahrul Azmi Che Saupi in the Speedy Tigers squad is in line with grooming a younger custodian for future international competitions, according to goalkeeper coach S. Kumar.

Shahrul, 23, is the youngest among four goalkeepers included in the Tigers’ squad of 30 as Hafizuddin Othman, 32, is the most senior player while Zaimi Mat Deris and Adrian Andy Albert are both 27.

The Seremban-born Shahrul used to be a protege of Kumar when he was part of the 2021 Junior World Cup squad and was the first choice in the team that finished eighth in Bhubaneswar, India.

“I was training him for more than a year during the 2021 Junior World Cup preparation but I had to leave a month before the tournament as I was asked to guide the national senior goalkeepers,” recalled Kumar.

“Shahrul did well in Bhubaneswar but he was bothered by a hamstring injury and was out for some time.

“He was finally included in the Hockey5s World Cup squad where Malaysia finished runners-up and he also played for Nurinsafi and did well in both tournaments, so we decided to include him in the senior squad.

“Our current goalkeepers are 27 and above. It is good to have a younger keeper whom we can prepare for the future.

“Shahrul is only 23 and if he keeps improving in several areas, he can also close the gap with the three senior keepers and we can alternate the four of them in tournaments.

“For now, Hafizuddin has the most experience and although Zaimi and Adrian are about the same level as him, they have played less international matches.

“Now, we will rotate and give everyone the chance to push themselves. Being a younger player, Shahrul’s presence also is going to increase the competition for the No. 1 position.

“As the youngest, Shahrul is quick and agile, and has the potential to become a future first-choice keeper.

“But at every training session, I always remind them to keep pushing because anyone can become the No. 1.”

It is still early days for Shahrul to make an immediate impact but the goalkeeper should feel at home after returning to train under his former mentor Kumar.

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