GOALKEEPER Mohd Izham Tarmizi has big shoes to fill in December's Sea Games in Myanmar.
The Terengganu-born currently faces a challenge stepping in for national No 1 Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, who is overage for the Under-23 football tournament at the biennial Games, as Malaysia aim to win their third straight title. But Izham has no problem with that. A former T-Team President's Cup member, Izham -- who led the team to victory in last year's Newspaper Cup in Vietnam -- was a second choice to Khairul for the 2011 Indonesia Sea Games.
"I did not play a single match then. However, I was still happy as we won the gold medal. I knew it would be tough to get into the first team with Khairul Fahmi in the squad," said Izham in Kuantan yesterday.
"However, it was quite an experience for me as Khairul Fahmi taught me about the finer points of being a better keeper.
"I am excited and prepared for the upcoming Sea Games but I cannot take my spot for granted as coach Ong Kim Swee wants only the best from me. I am training diligently and trying new things under the guidance of goalkeeping coach Yong Wai Hwang."
Standing at 1.76 metres, Izham's impressive performance for T-Team in the President's Cup in 2009 earned him a spot in the Young Tigers 'B' Premier League squad a year later. He made 22 appearances in the second-tier competition before joining Tigers 'A' in 2011.
Izham has proven to be a safe pair of hands in the ongoing Merdeka Tournament, conceding only one goal in three matches. The 22-year-old hopes to steer the national Under-23 squad to a second title in the tournament since 2007 in tomorrow's final against Myanmar at Darulmakmur Stadium.
The strong connection between the team's defensive unit and Izham has been a key factor in the tournament.
"The backline led by centre-backs Fadhli Shas and Nik Shahrul Azim Abdul Halim is strong and I have a good understanding with them. This will be crucial in the Sea Games. We are communicating well during matches but of course there are areas we must improve.
"I am very happy with my defence as they read the game well and that is why I have hardly been tested in the Merdeka Tournament," said Izham.