by Peng You Xin
Passion spurs the heart and limbs of CP footballer Khairul Anwar.
More than six years ago, the idea of a cerebral palsy football team was mostly unheard of on Singapore shores. These days however, the country has a national team taking the Southeast Asian field by storm.
This is mostly thanks to Khairul Anwar and the other pioneer members of Singapore’s CP football team, who spearheaded the movement.
“All this time, we’ve been playing against other associations. One day, it just came into our minds that we wanted to represent Singapore on the field,” said the 29-year-old captain of the team.
Starting the team wasn’t easy, due to the requirements of the sport. CP football should be played in a team of seven, with a mixture of disability classes a compulsory feature for each side. Failure to meet this requirement would result in a reduction in the number of players on the field for that team.
Fortunately for Khairul, he managed to recruit other passionate footballers like himself via the annual National Disability League organized by the Singapore Disability Sports Council. Thus, Singapore’s national CP football team was born.
“If you ask me, nothing’s too different. We do the same thing. We do trainings just like any other regular football team,” explained Khairul, who plays in defence.
Khairul would be classified as Class Seven player. A bad fall in his early years resulted in cerebral palsy, which affects the right side of his body. Despite right hemiplegia plaguing him after the accident, nothing could stop Khairul from falling in love with and practicing his favourite sport of football.
“I feel free. I feel free from everything. With the ball at my feet, all [my] stress is gone,” mused Khairul.
The weakened state of his right arm and leg never once hindered Khairul’s passion for the sport. However, like most other national athletes, time management has been the biggest stumbling block. As a full-time student, studying health management and promotion, Khairul admitted that balancing various aspects of his life was no easy feat.
“Basically you have school, you have training, not forgetting friends and family to spend time with. It is really tough to juggle all of it,” he shared.
“Sometimes you just have to sacrifice one or the other, but that’s normal for an athlete. I need to understand that, so does everyone else around me.”
The 8th ASEAN Para games happening in Singapore this year has pushed Khairul to further tip the scales on his training-life balance.
For many years, the team has been competing on foreign soil, in countries like Myanmar, Thailand and Korea. As such, playing on home ground will be something of a dream come true for Khairul.
“Whatever it is, we are going to give our best. We’ve been training really hard for this competition. We are definitely confident of our performance, but this is all just talk. We’ll let the ball do the talking on the field,” promises Khairul.
When asked if there was any particular team he looked forward to pit his skills against on the field, the humble player maintained that each opponent would be an equally exciting challenge. After all, as Khairul has proved, in football anything can happen.