HIS run in the first team has come to an end, even before it truly began.
LionsXII midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin will be out of action for at least a month, after colliding with a car while riding his motorcycle on Monday evening.
He suffered an open wound and two dislocated toes on his right foot, and underwent minor surgery yesterday morning.
The accident could hardly have come at a worse time for the player, or his team.
Zulfahmi, 21, made just his third LionsXII start in last weekend's 1-1 draw with Negeri Sembilan and was due to line up against ATM FA at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday.
"We will miss him," coach V.Sundramoorthy said yesterday.
He had already lost his preferred central defensive pairing of Baihakki Khaizan and Safuwan Baharudin to suspensions for the visit of the in-form Malaysian armed forces side.
Currently fourth in the Malaysian Super League - three points behind Sundram's table toppers - ATM just last Saturday handed Kelantan their first home loss in 33 matches and are the league's top scorers with 24 goals in 12 games.
While the LionsXII coach pointed out that injuries are part and parcel of football, he will doubtless be concerned after seeing one of his players injured in a motorcycle-related incident for the third time this term.
In February, full-backs Shakir Hamzah and Faritz Hameed both spent time on the sidelines after separate accidents.
Over half of the LionsXII's 27-man squad ride motorcycles but team manager Visakan Subramanian confirmed that there are no plans to enforce a ban.
"What matters most is that Zulfahmi's injuries are not as bad as we first feared," he said.
"We have advised, and will continue to stress to, those players who ride that their safety is of paramount importance."
This is not the first time that bike accidents have made headlines on the local football scene.
In 2005, the Football Association of Singapore considered banning Young Lions players from riding after midfielder Jamil Ali was involved in two accidents.
There was also talk in 2000 of the S-League enforcing a blanket ban on its players after several accidents, including one that claimed the life of Prime League player Mohamed Khifli Johan.
Neither ban materialised.
And LionsXII midfielder Isa Halim stressed that it would be unrealistic to expect young players - especially those still serving their national service, like Zulfahmi - to leave the bike culture behind.
"They already have to wake up early to go to camp and then rush to training," said the Singapore international, who used to ride a motorcycle but now drives a car to and from training.
"For them, riding is the most economical way of getting around."
This story was first published in The Straits Times on April 17, 2013
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