Injured Mahathir Azeman to miss Olympic qualifers, SEA Games
He received good reviews for his performances in Brazil during his 18-month stint with Brazilian club Boavista.
Mahathir Azeman (right) returned last month to prepare for full-time National Service (NS) while setting his sights on earning a place in the Under-23 football squad for the South-east Asia (SEA) Games, which Singapore will host in June.
His chances were boosted after receiving a call-up to Richard Bok's national U-22 side gearing up for the Olympic qualifiers.
But disaster struck last month when the 18-year-old midfielder suffered a complete tear on his right knee's anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) while training with S.League side Balestier Khalsa - the club who partially sponsored his Brazilian stint.
After undergoing surgery on Jan 5, Mahathir was told by doctors that he would be sidelined for six months.
The injury all but ended his hopes of making Aide Iskandar's team, who are gunning for the elusive football gold.
"With this injury, it means that I will miss out on the opportunity to fight for a place in the Olympic team and maybe the chance of playing at the South-east Asia Games squad is also gone, but I can't think about that now," said Mahathir, who did not attend a single session with the U-22 team.
"On the bright side, no other ligaments were affected and I'm just focused on getting better, and just doing whatever strengthening exercises that I can at home."
The former National Football Academy U-16 midfielder is due to enlist for full-time NS soon, but has already won over Boavista with his attitude and performances.
The fleet-footed player made the Boavista No. 10 shirt his own when playing with their U-18s in 2013 and has earned an open invite to return to the club when he completes his NS obligations.
For now, Mahathir is firmly focused on rehabilitation which hopefully will speed up his return to the football pitch.
"The surgery went well, it wasn't as painful as I expected, but I can't even work on a proper rehabilitation programme now because I'm still on crutches," said Mahathir, whose stint in Brazil was facilitated by his alma mater, Siglap Secondary School, and coach Fabio da Silva.
"I'm looking forward to the time when the swelling in my knee goes down and I can hit the gym again. I want to get back on the pitch by the middle of the S.League season and, hopefully, play before the season ends.
"This injury means several wasted opportunities for me, but I have to stay positive."