BRIGHT FUTURE: Sabah striker making all the right moves
ROZAIMI Abdul Rahman's rise from obscurity is remarkable, to say the least, after leading Sabah to a historic Malaysia Games football gold medal in Kuantan on Saturday.
The striker had a hand in all of Sabah's goals in the 3-0 extra-time win over Perak in the final, starting the move for the first which was scored by Zulmanssyah Aling, provided the pass for Leopold Alfonso Otong to score the second, and bagged the third himself.
Virtually unknown just a year ago, 19-year-old Rozaimi's stock has now risen so high that he is in great demand and Sabah could struggle to hold on to him.
Already Selangor have hired him on loan for the Malaysia Cup and Rozaimi, who made his senior international debut in Malaysia's 6-0 win over Sri Lanka in April, has been recalled by national coach K. Rajagopal for the friendlies against Arsenal and Manchester City this month.
Having scored 10 goals at the AFC Under-22 Championship qualifiers in Yangon, Rozaimi returned home to help Sabah in their fight against relegation, tallying six goals in the Super League, before arriving in Kuantan where he played the role of hero in the semi-finals and final by scoring in each match.
"I've been playing a lot of football and it is tiring. But I don't think about it as I just want to play in every game and enjoy it.
"I've not had a rest but I'm able to keep going because my spirit is lifted each time we win. To help Sabah win the gold medal and create history is very satisfying. I'm really very happy," said Rozaimi.
The celebrations will be cut short, however, as Rozaimi heads to Malacca where Sabah are involved in the Super League relegation playoffs, which starts tomorrow with a semi-final against Kedah.
"My focus now is on helping Sabah avoid relegation. After that, I'm off to the national team to play against the English clubs and then I'll join Selangor on loan for the Malaysia Cup," said Rozaimi of his immediate plans.
Sabah coach Johny Dominicus admitted his team are a different side with Rozaimi in it.
"Rozaimi is one of the reasons we won. When he is in the team, he has a psychological effect on the opponents. He puts a kind of fear in them.
"When you have a player as dangerous as him, it is an advantage. He not only scores goals, he creates chances as well.
"I would say there is a difference with him in the team. Whether we would have won without him, that is a mute point," said Johny after Sabah eased the heart-break of their President's Cup quarter-final exit.