Khairul bends it like Beckham again for Singapore
Celebral palsy star Khairul scores again, as Singapore battle Malaysia for bronze tomorrow
Khairul Anwar was blown away on Saturday, smiling when his idol David Beckham gave him an autographed ball.
And he was gushing when the visiting former Manchester United star praised his sensational goals at the ongoing Asean Para Games (APG).
Yesterday at the National Stadium, the Republic's cerebral palsy football captain stood on the other side of that fence.
The 29-year-old obligingly waved to fans as his name was screamed from the stands, and he later took pictures with every single person who approached him as he waited to speak to the media.
Singapore beat Malaysia 4-2 in their final group fixture, with Khairul bending it like Beckham yet again to get on the scoresheet for the fourth time at these Games.
Singapore will face their Causeway rivals again tomorrow for the bronze medal, but Khairul believes the team have already won the more important victory.
"Coming into this APG has been fantastic, the atmosphere at the game was really great, and standing on the field you can feel it - it was seriously hair-raising," he told The New Paper.
"The main thing is to create awareness, and not just for football, but all other sports too - we are one big team.
"And I hope we get more and more of this, hopefully even after the APG ends too."
Khairul's meeting with Beckham was trending on Twitter on Saturday, and his teammates are also gaining more recognition.
Yesterday's two-goal hero Shahidil Saidi, Taufiq Baharin who scored the other, and the excellent Shafiq Ariff would have also heard their names screamed from the stands.
"We have been overwhelmed by the support, everyone has a heart for this team," said coach Zainudeen Hassan. "You (the media) have made them so popular, and awareness has spread so much, especially on social media. And if (through this) we can get five more players, that would be great."
Zainudeen has only 13 players on his roster, and is hoping to rejuvenate his side for the future.
But, for now, the attention is fully focused on the bronze-medal fixture tomorrow, and Zainudeen knows yesterday's win is no indication of how the match will go.
"It's nice to win the game but, like us, (Malaysia) did not play with a full strength side, so it wasn't exactly a prelude to the (bronze-medal play-off)," he said. "We'll definitely make changes, and I'm sure our opponents will do the same."
Malaysia did not start with their No. 10 Sobri Ghazali, and he came on to torment the Singapore side in the second half and score the Malaysian's second goal. Zainudeen is aware of the danger he poses.
"He wasn't even warming up, you can see that he can punish us from anywhere inside the halfway line," said Zainuden, whose charges will draw confidence from the win.
"In the changing room, today's win was like winning the World Cup, that in itself is a motivation," he added.
Shahidil is one who is definitely brimming with confidence following his two-goal showing.
"It's priceless, money cannot buy this feeling. It's not because we beat Malaysia, it was playing in front of this kind of crowd that made it so special," he said.
"This definitely boosts my confidence for the next match."
The bronze-medal match will kick off at 1pm at the National Stadium, with Thailand and Myanmar battling for gold at 3.15pm.