Afiq ready to play through pain for MSL glory
It has not been an easy year for the defender since being diagnosed with gout just before the start of the season.
Despite that, he had started in the first four matches of the season, even scoring in the 4-0 routing of PB Melayu Kedah in a Malaysian FA Cup tie.
A flare-up meant he missed the away draw against Felda United two weeks ago but he was back in action in last weekend’s Malaysian Super League (MSL) home clash against Terengganu FA – coming on as a first-half substitute after the team went a goal down.
Afiq eventually completed 56 minutes and could have found himself on the scoresheet again five minutes after coming on but for a goal line clearance.
Speaking to FourFourTwo after the game, the 24-year-old was happy despite being thrown on earlier than he'd expected.
“Of course I didn’t expect to come on,” he said.
“Coach told me before the game that he wants to rest me, but things were not going his way at the back so I just came in earlier. My mindset was to be ever-ready and I just tried to give my best.
“The chance came so early for me - I thought it was a goal already! In the end, it was unlucky for me but I will try harder in the next game.”
With Wahyudi Wahid being hauled off, Madhu Mohana was pushed to right back while Afiq and Zulfahmi Arifin lined up at the heart of defence.
Despite this being the first competitive match in which Zulfahmi and Afiq have paired up, the duo did well to nullify a Terengganu’s attack which was spearheaded by 2014 Golden Boot winner Paulo Rangel.
“We only played with each other at the back once or twice during the pre-season friendlies but I think we did pretty well tonight,” Afiq said.
“Zul can do well at the back because he’s got the composure and the body to shield the ball.
“Rangel is the target man for them who gets the passes and we didn’t allow him to have many opportunities to have a shot on goal.”
Afiq was also keen to play down injury concerns despite his long-term gout problems.
“I didn’t feel any pain throughout the match,” he said.
“For this issue, I’m totally fine and I know how to take care of it; taking medicine and eating those protein stuff.
“In the long run, I’m trying to find my own medicine, not only from doctors but from outsiders. They got a lot of good things that help gout also thus I’m slowly trying to find what’s best for me.”
Despite a bruised noise due to a collision with Rangel late on, the former Courts Young Lions defender should be fit for next Saturday’s Malaysia FA Cup round of 16 tie against KL Spa Putrajaya.
“He was tussling for the ball, before making a sudden turn and ran into my nose,” he recalled. “It was a very hard knock, but I thought I was okay to carry on.
“It’s frustrating that the team had gotten three straight draws. We should have won this game; we had good chances but (Khairul) Amri and Sahil (Suhaimi) hit the woodwork. It’s unlucky for us but we have to go for it in the next game.”
Photo: Football Association of Singapore