Another blow for LionsXII

LionsXII midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin, who would have almost certainly started Saturday’s game against ATM, is the latest casualty, giving coach Sundram a selection headache.

THE LionsXII accident curse has struck once more.

Central midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin was involved in a motorcycle accident on Monday evening, leaving him with two dislocated toes on his right foot.

The 21-year-old has been ruled out for four weeks and he will miss Saturday’s highly-anticipated Malaysian Super League (MSL) match against ATM FA at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Zulfahmi would have almost certainly played in the engine room alongside Isa Halim, and coach V Sundramoorthy now has a major selection headache to deal with.

With his first-choice centre-back pairing of Baihakki Khaizan and Safuwan Baharudin out due to suspension, central midfielder Hariss Harun is expected to drop back into defence.

That reduces the number of options Sundram has in the middle of the park, now that Zulfahmi is also out.

The 47-year-old said: “Zulfahmi played well in the 1-1 draw against Negeri and he would have been starting against ATM. “Since this has happened, we need to give opportunities to others and prepare them for the SEA Games.

“We are going to miss Zul, but injury is part of football and we have Izzdin Shafiq, Hafiz Abu Sujad and Aqhari Abdullah who can play in this position, while Shahril (Ishak) also can play there.

“Most likely, we’re going to throw a youngster in and see what he is made of.”

Said LionsXII manager Visakan Subramanian, whose team are two points clear of Selangor and Johor Darul Takzim at the top of the MSL: “What matters most is that Zulfahmi is okay now and the injury is not as serious as we feared at first.

“We have advised and will continue to stress to those players who ride, that their safety is paramount.”

This is not the first time a LionsXII player has met with a motorcycle accident this season.

In February, fullbacks Faritz Abdul Hameed and Shakir Hamzah were also injured after crashing their bikes. Faritz suf- Midfielder Zulfahmi out for 4 weeks after bike accident fered a collarbone injury while Shakir was lucky to escape with abrasions.

The LionsXII are not contractually bound to refrain from riding, and less than half of their 29 players do so.

In 2000, the FAS made it compulsory for all S-League players who are motorcyclists to undergo a compulsory defensive riding course conducted by Singapore Safety Driving Centre after a serious spate of related injuries.

In 2005, after Jamil Ali met with two motorcycle accidents in two months, the Young Lions considered banning their players from riding.

In subsequent contract negotiations, the club would have an agreement with their players not to ride motorcycles. Said one official, who declined to be named: “I don’t think it’s fair to just take away their mode of transport just like that. “Riding motorcycles carries its risks but the players know football is their livelihood and none of them in their right minds would want to get injured. How many of them can afford to own a car in Singapore to get from point A to point B, or to go from their camps to training in time?”

“I think it’s just bad luck, and hopefully these accidents will keep others on their toes to ride safely.”

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