Dollah Kassim Award: Football trumps fear of injury for Khairul
Khairul realised how much he missed the game, after a one-month layoff
When Khairul Ikhwan Karim was 12, one of his brother's friends tackled him so hard during a game that he nearly needed crutches after that.
The thought of getting injured terrified him and it didn't help that Khairul came to know that knee injuries often spelled the death of footballers' careers.
He was then in a dilemma: to continue playing football and risk his limbs, or stop playing and find something else he might like.
He recalled: "The doctor told me that I almost had to be on crutches but, although it was a bad tackle, it wasn't too serious. That consultation made me scared.
MISSING A SPARK
"It made me worried that I might end up breaking a leg if I kept playing football."
Khairul spent a month moping around at home, before he realised he was missing something from his life: football.
"During that month, I felt like I was just wasting my time at home and missing out on something that made me happy.
"So I started watching football videos at home and I found myself more interested in the sport.
"It made me feel that it isn't that bad after all and I just told myself to avoid injuries."
Khairul admits that, although the incident made him wary of dangerous tackles in matches, it certainly will not deter him from pursuing his dream of becoming a professional footballer.
Despite that, the National Football Academy Under-16 defensive midfielder feels that he has to remain realistic and not get carried away with playing the sport.
Khairul said: "In football, I feel that by a certain age, I might not be able to cope with the high intensity of the game.
"In modern football, speed and fitness are key so, maybe after my peak years, the younger players will outrun me and I won't be able to keep up."
The Canberra Secondary School student, who recently completed his O levels, aspires to be a doctor after his footballing years are over.
Khairul, who already has his sights set on a biomedical course in a polytechnic, said: "For me, this would be my safety net.
"As much as I want to play football, my friends and family have always reminded me to have something else to fall back on.
"I've been offered a place in another poly to play football, but I'd rather put my preferred course before football because all the polys offer football anyway."