Malaysia rugby sevens captain Zulkiflee Azmi has a hard choice to make – does he continue to represent his country at the Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines later this year or instead focus on a career as a policeman.
Zulkiflee, 27, is at one of life’s crossroads. A key figure in Malaysia’s emergence in the sevens format in recent years, he has been included in Malaysia’s 16-man squad for the SEA Games in Manila from November30-December 11.
But he might have to give up the chance to lead Malaysia in its title defence at these Games to secure his future with the Royal Malaysia Police.
Zulkiflee, who married last year, will have to undergo induction with the RMP, and unfortunately for him, it clashes with the SEA Games.
“I was supposed to undergo the induction last year but had to postpone it due to the Indonesia Asian Games,” the Kelantan-born player told the New Straits Times. “I am not sure if it can be postponed again this year, if it’s not possible then I would probably have to miss the SEA Games.
“I think it is important for me to secure my future. It is quite tough for me to depend on my training allowances, which are only there when we are preparing for tournaments especially now that I am married.
“I chose to take up the offer with the police because they also have a rugby programme which means I can continue to be involved with the sport,” Zulkiflee added.
Zulkiflee broke into the senior sevens squad as a teenager with an inspired performance at the Borneo Sevens leg of the Asian Sevens Series in 2010. He was part of the squad that won the Asian Under-20 Sevens in 2011 and 2012 but his finest moment was leading the national team to a first-ever SEA Games title in 2017 and also a fifth-place at the Asian Games in Jakarta last year.
Zulkiflee has called for sports authorities in Malaysia to pay long-term contracts to players. “I think offering a player a longer contract, two years for example, would be better as it provides more stability.”
The monthly allowances the Malaysian sevens squad preparing for the Sea Games receives varies from 2,000 Malaysian ringgit (US$488) to RM800.