Centurion-to-be up for more

Centurion-to-be up for more
PHOTO: Berita Harian

He went for trials when he was 11 but didn't make any of the four Under-12 teams in the North-Zone centre of the now-defunct Milo Scheme.

But overall head coach Razif Onn saw something in Khairul Amri and took him along for one league match, and actually threw him on at half-time even if the youngster had not been assigned a team kit.

Amri pulled on a teammate's sweaty jersey and duly notched a hat-trick as his team rolled to victory.

Moving up the ranks quickly, he eventually received a call up into the national Under-12s.

Today, almost two decades on, Amri is set to wear the Singapore jersey for the 100th time when the Lions take on Qatar in an international friendly in Doha on Thursday, before a crucial World Cup qualifier against Syria in Oman on Sept 3.

Already part of three ASEAN title-winning teams, the 30-year-old can look back on a fulfilling international career.

"As a young boy, it was a dream to play for the national team. Then when I got my first cap against Oman in 2004, I thought only about how to win my next cap," said the LionsXII striker.

"After major left knee injury and breaking the fifth metatarsals in both feet, I just wanted to get back and play, and now that I am on 99 caps, I'm really looking forward to get to 100.

"It would be a great honour and I guess it feels like someone graduating with a degree. But it doesn't end here.

"I still have many ambitions, I want to win the Malaysian Super League title, I want to win the MSL Golden Boot.

"With the Lions, it would be something special to be part of the first Singapore team to qualify for the Asian Cup.

"As long as I'm fit and performing, I will do my best to give my coaches no reason not to pick me.

"And even after I stop playing, I want to continue contributing to Singapore football in other capacities."

Amri has been inextricably linked with Singapore's football successes over the last 10 years, after he became the only player to score in the final of the 2004, 2007 and 2012 ASEAN championships.

They are all strikes he would rank right up with his first international goal in a 2-0 win over India in 2004, and a free-kick special in the 2-0 victory over eventual 2007 Asian Cup champions Iraq in 2006.

Besides Razif, Amri credited his two national coaches - Bernd Stange and his predecessor Radojko Avramovic - for helping him reach the 100-cap milestone.

Current Singapore coach Stange has challenged his striker to continue to play at a high level.

"It is the job and demand of strikers like Amri to score goals and win matches," said the German.

"Stay as long as you can and contribute as much as you can."

Amri insists he is up for it.

"I have matured and reached the stage of my career where I go into every training session and match understanding and knowing what to do, how to play, and what is the standard required," he said.

"Nobody expected us to get a result against Japan, but we held them to a 0-0 draw.

"So many times, we (the Lions) have produced something special when written off and I'm very happy if we can continue to prove people wrong and go on to create more history."

This article was first published on August 25, 2015.
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