Kedah switch helps Akram earn na­tional call-up

New Straits Times - - Sport - RE­PORTS BY AJITPAL SINGH ajit­pals­

AKRAM Mahi­nan’s move to Su­per League side Kedah from Pre­mier League’s Jo­hor this sea­son has paid div­i­dends as the 24-year-old hopes to res­ur­rect his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer with the na­tional team.

The Kulim-born is among the 23 play­ers called up by na­tional coach Ong Kim Swee for the friendly against the Philip­pines on March 22 in Manila.

Akram’s only in­ter­na­tional cap was in the 6-0 de­feat to Oman in March, 2015. He was also in the train­ing squad for the 2015 Sin­ga­pore Sea Games but was dropped from the fi­nal team.

The cen­tral mid­fielder joined Darul Ta’zim in 2013 af­ter his stint with Young Tigers B but was dropped to Jo­hor for two sea­sons be­fore re­turn­ing to the Su­per League side in 2016.

How­ever, he was dropped again to Jo­hor dur­ing last sea­son’s mid­sea­son trans­fer win­dow.

“I am happy to be back with the na­tional team. It is only my sec­ond call-up and I hope to prove my­self here,” said Akram at Wisma FAM in Ke­lana Jaya yes­ter­day.

“The com­pe­ti­tion for spots in the start­ing line-up was stiff at Darul Ta’zim and I did not play in many matches. I was trans­ferred to Jo­hor in mid-2016 but it is tough to get spot­ted when you are in the Pre­mier League.

“My de­ci­sion to join Kedah has turned out to be good. It has mo­ti­vated me to play harder while my team­mates have been help­ing me im­prove.”

“I hope to stamp my mark with the na­tional team as it has al­ways been my dream to play for the coun­try.”

Ex­cept for play­ers from Felda United and Darul Ta’zim, who are in­volved in the AFC Cup, the oth­ers re­ported for train­ing at Wisma FAM yes­ter­day.

Kedah de­fend­ers Khairul Helmi Jo­hari and Rizal Ghaz­ali did not join prac­tice as they are car­ry­ing light in­juries.

Na­tional as­sis­tant coach Brad Maloney con­ducted train­ing yes­ter­day in the ab­sence of Kim Swee, who will only re­turn from Malacca to­day.

“We are as­sess­ing play­ers af­ter the FA Cup matches last week­end. Some are car­ry­ing mi­nor knocks. We ex­pect ev­ery­one to get back to nor­mal train­ing rou­tines in the next few days for the friendly,” said Maloney.

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