Like many football fans, Khair finds it hard to sum up exactly what it is he loves so much about the beautiful game.
Whether it was competing in academy teams as a youngster, the thrill of pulling on his boots for a kickaround with friends or working for an international football federation, one thing is certain...
Khair – full name Muhammad Khair Bin Muhammad Rizauddin - is determined to see his home nation of Singapore host and play in a World Cup Finals tournament so they bring the globe’s greatest exponents of football to the people of South East Asia.
Khair (third from right) with Home United FC
Khair is one of 24 students from around the world currently at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) studying the award-winning FIFA Master International MA in Management, Law and Humanities of Sport.
He is aware that graduates from the course have gone on to change many aspects of the sporting world for the better and his ambitions are to join them in making a difference.
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Khair said: “I was very active as a child and I loved playing football. My favourite lesson was PE. I was the quiet kid in the classroom but as soon as I ran on that football pitch I was the one shouting ‘I’ll be captain, I’ll be captain’, making friends with everyone else who was playing and loving every minute of it.
“My teachers were great but being on the pitch and playing gave me a sense of freedom of expression I never had indoors. Whenever I think back to high school it is being on the pitch that created my best memories.”
Khair played through the academy ranks with his team Home United Football Club from the age of 10 to 18. But when they were unable to offer him a semi-pro contract Khair decided to follow an academic route into football.
“It was heart breaking not to get a contract,” he says. “Home United said they would try and find me another club but I didn’t want to play for anyone else. I had been with Home United since the age of 10. So, I decided to focus on an academic route into football.”
Khair completed a Sports Science and Management degree and became an executive for the Competitions Division of the Football Association of Singapore, which planned and organized competitions designed to further develop football in the country.
There is no doubt football at grass roots level is in a healthy state in Singapore and there are a lot of followers of the game. But it is still competing for attention against well-established sports such as swimming, table tennis, athletics and the martial art Silat.
Khair in action on the pitch
Khair feels he needs to branch out and experience how football is grown in other countries so that he can return to Singapore with new ideas that will set the nation on the way to one day competing at an elite level.
Singapore is part of a joint bid to host the 2034 World Cup Finals making Khair’s experiences now all the more important for the future development of the game.
The Football Association of Singapore and the Asian Football Confederation have sponsored Khair’s place on the FIFA Master, showing they are willing to invest in his career and help him with his ambitions.
Khair said: “I am incredibly grateful to them.”
Khair has been an Arsenal fan from a young age, when they were one of the best club teams in world football and boasted players such as Henry, Bergkamp and his heroes Viera and Fabregas, who played in Khair’s favoured position of centre midfield.
Khair got to see Arsenal live at The Emirates for the first time in 2009 – as a treat from his Arsenal-supporting Dad who wanted to reward his hard work at school - and has watched them on a number of occasions since.
He now hopes the Covid-19 restrictions in the UK, and elsewhere, are soon lifted so he can get to see more football and visit more great sporting institutions while studying the course.
Khair added: “I am really enjoying the course. I love meeting the other students and sharing their passion for sport. They all have fascinating backgrounds and different experiences of sport, while the professors and lecturers have a wealth of experience to pass on in the classroom and online.
“We all understand the circumstances with the pandemic and the importance of the restrictions but I am hoping they are eased soon so we can take part in more industry visits. But it is still early days with the course and I am really excited about what is still to come. I am honoured to be on the course.”
Posted on Wednesday 18th November 2020