Khairul Helmi is the captain of Kedah and has plenty of responsibility heading into the 2016 season guiding the fortunes of one of the youngest sides in the Malaysia Super League.
The newly promoted team is looking to settle quickly in the top tier and the experienced hands like Khairul are crucial for the coming campaign.
He is very big and powerful and can hold the ball up in the attack
“To be captain is always a big responsibility,” Khairul told FourFourTwo . “When the coach gave me the armband, I knew that I had a big job to help handle the team and the players on the field. So far, the players have given me good feedback and we are looking forward to the season.
“As much as we can, senior players like Baddrol Bakhtiar and myself give good advice to young players: how to handle the situations of the field, the game and training. The young players are listening to us – so far!”
The youngsters are all competing against each other to make the starting 11 for the new season. “In training I see our players doing a very good job and giving their all. Everyone is pushing each other with a good heart to be involved in the first 11.”
The major signing so far has been Carlos Kahe. The Brazilian striker has experience in Germany and Turkey and there are high hopes up in Alor Setar that he could make a real difference.
“He is doing very well, he is training with the team for a week. He is doing a good job. He is very big and powerful and can hold the ball up in the attack.”
As a promoted team, even Kedah's most optimistic fans are not expecting a tilt at the title, but Khairul is hoping for a top-half finish. “I think to claim that we will win the title is very difficult. We will try our best but we can target the top five and do well in the cups.”
The Red Hawks ended last season in the final of the Malaysia Cup, losing to Selangor in the decider after an exciting few weeks in which the whole state was captivated.
Something similar this season would be very welcome for the skipper. “It was a great experience because in 2007 and 2008, Kedah won the double treble, at that time. I was just sitting on the bench and not playing, so last year was a good experience to play in the final. Of course we were disappointed, we were so close to bringing the cup back to Kedah, but we had no luck.”
At the very least, Kedah want to finish above rivals Penang. The two teams were promoted together.
“We have a rivalry with Penang. We still have the northern rivalry between us for sure. The games with Penang will be fierce. Of course we can finish above Penang in the Super League. We have good players. This is the right time for us.”