After four years as a reserve goalkeeper at LionsXII, Khairulhin Khalid is finally getting a chance at Hougang. His performances have not gone unnoticed as national team coach Bernd Stange has called him up for the centralised training held every Monday..
With Singapore’s number one custodian Izwan Mahbud in the LionsXII, Khairulhin Khalid could only play second fiddle – occasionally getting a shoo-in when the latter is injured or in the early stages of a Cup game.
The stats don’t lie and they sure don’t look pretty – from 2012 to 2015, he played less than 10 games for the LionsXII.
It is no wonder then that the 24-year-old is relieved to be playing regularly for the first time in his career, after starting in all three S.League games for new club Hougang.
“Of course I’m happy to be back playing and to be in the spotlight again,” Khairulhin told FourFourTwo.
“Especially after being the number two behind Izwan for the last three years, it feels good now that I’m finally getting regular playing time. That’s when you gain confidence and experience as a goalkeeper.”
Seeing his same-age peers like Safuwan Baharudin, Madhu Mohana and Zulfahmi Arifin making breakthroughs at both club and international level, one would have forgiven Khairulhin for being a tad disheartened at the lack of opportunities.
However, the National Football Academy (NFA) alumnus kept faith that he would eventually make the mark one day.
Over the years, I had people telling me I’m just a number two and nothing else more than that
“To be honest, it was a shock back then to be part of the LionsXII setup during our first season,” recalled the custodian, who has never been in the Garena Young Lions setup.
“I had actually taken a break from football for three years when I was 18, so that year was for me to get back my touches and confidence. I was even fourth choice behind Izwan, Hyrulnizam (Juma’at) and Al-Faiz (Ishak), but I tried to take things positively.
“Over the years, I had people telling me I’m just a number two and nothing else more than that. So I simply took those words as a form of motivation to push harder in training.
“To me, being a number two is not a problem. I believe as long as I have the right mentality, my chance will come when the time is right.”
Ironically the announcement of the LionsXII sitting out all Malaysian competitions from 2016 onwards turned out to be a boon for Khairulhin’s career.
Offers started coming in from various S.League clubs and a decision was tough to reach but Khairulhin knew what he wanted: to play regular first-team football.
With the help and advice from former coach and Singapore legend Fandi Ahmad, an opportunity to sign for Hougang presented itself.
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