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National goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat talks to Siti Arpah Fatwa Ali about fitness, style and his cover-worthy abs
TEN minutes in the company of our own world-class goalkeeper and it’s clear that Khairul Fahmi Che Mat is no run-of-the-mill heartthrob. Some may remember him for his Korean looks and others may admire him for his goalkeeping prowess but our conversation in the Kelantan dialect (the state where he comes from) affords precious insights that speak volumes about him.
The humble young sporting star smiles when asked about his immense popularity. He says: “I do not perceive myself as popular. My fans decide whether I am popular. I have strived hard to be where I am today and it feels good to be No. 1.”
You may have seen him shouting to his team mates during matches. He is, after all, the goalkeeper. But in person, Khairul Fahmi is so soft-spoken that you strain to hear him speak.
Clad in a black jacket with a white T-shirt neatly tucked in his khaki pants, his casual sense of style is evident in his choice of footwear — black loafers. At 23, he is already at the centre of the nation’s attention, not to mention the intense scrutiny among his legion of female fans.
“The pressure of being in the limelight is there but I am able to cope with it. I have learnt to prepare myself for it mentally and physically,” he says.
“There is always pressure when you carry the hope of your state or your nation. But most importantly, I have my family who is my pillar of strength.”
In 2010, Khairul Fahmi was in action when Malaysia won the Asia AFC Cup, followed by a gold medal at the Sea Games in 2011. Being a man who enjoys being in the thick of action, he says that off-field he is very comfortable with his masculinity.
“I like wearing stylish clothes. I admire David Beckham... I think he is inspiring, confident and fun, and that’s what fashion is all about,” he says.
Ancient Zen masters said: “When hungry, eat; when tired, sleep”. Khairul Fahmi shares the same belief.
“It’s very important to have at least seven to eight hours of sleep to ensure that you regain your energy for the next game,” he says.
And when it comes to staying hydrated, he recommends drinking at least two litres of plain water every day. “This is especially true for athletes, as they need to replace liquids lost during the daily training,” he explains.
True to his Kelantanese roots, Fahmi admits to having a sweet tooth. He loves chocolates.
“Since my schooldays, I have disciplined myself and until today, I strictly follow a three-meal routine. Sometimes, I skip dinner or I have light meals only, especially before an upcoming game or match. But breakfast is mandatory,” he says, affirming health experts’ opinions that breakfast is the most important daily meal.
As an athlete, Fahmi knows the importance of physical exercise. “One should develop a regular exercise habit, even if only for a short period,”
He himself religiously commits to daily training for a good two hours with his team. This involves, among others, mastering the skill of catching balls headed for the goal.
He doesn’t neglect his supplements and vitamins, saying that these are “important to his fitness regime.”
Most athletes have their own idols or role models, be it sportsmen, politicians, even world leaders. Khairul Fahmi is an ardent fan of Oliver Kahn, the former German goalkeeper. He salutes and admires Kahn’s leadership quality and his tactical goalkeeping skills. “I hope to meet him in person one day,” he says.
Recently, as a boost to his fame and popularity, Khairul Fahmi has joined the glamorous ranks of the likes of David Beckham and Kevin Pietersen as Malaysia’s very own Brylcreem Boy.
A devoted user of hair gel since his teens, he is proud and thrilled to have been selected to represent the brand.
Just before my six-minute session with him ended, I show him a Glam Lelaki magazine (this year’s Jan/Feb issue) with him on the cover.
He blushes. Pointing to the impressive washboard abs in the photograph, I ask him: “Are these real?”
The image had caused quite a stir among his fans. He flashes a smile and replies: “You want to check them out?”
Suddenly, it is me who is caught unawares. Unsure as to what would be an appropriate response, I grin.
Spending six minutes with the sporting hero may not be enough to tell me who he really is, but I think I know at least that he — like those abs — is for real.