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ARKIB : 05/06/2003

Former Pahang striker turns to futsal

KUALA LUMPUR June 4 - Former Pahang striker Azamat Abduraimov is back in Malaysia but now as player-cum-coach with the Uzbekistan team who are taking part in the 2003 KL World Futsal Tournament at Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

Azamat, 37, who played for Pahang in the 1994 M-League, switched to futsal after ending his international football career with Uzbekistan October last year.

Azamat made his futsal debut at the Asian championship in Jakarta last year and had played in the match against Malaysia where he scored four goals.

"It is great to be back in Malaysia again because this country has a special place in my heart," Azamat told Bernama Wednesday.

Azamat's wedding to his wife Lobra was held in traditional Malay style in Kuantan in 1994.

"In fact my daughter Alia, who is now eight years old, was conceived in Malaysia but born in Taskent," said Azamat.

"I have played professional football in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and India but it is here (in Malaysia) where I have very fond memories," he said.

After leaving Malaysia at the end of 1994, Azamat returned the following year with the Uzbek national team to play in the Merdeka tournament which they won.

His father, Abduraimov was the coach of the Uzbekistan national team who made their debut in the Asian Games in Hiroshima, Japan in 1994.

They were the surprise gold medallist and Azamat featured in the team.

Thursday, Azamat will be wearing the number 10 jersey against England in their second and final group D fixture in the KL World Futsal Tournament.

He did not played in their opening match against Iran Tuesday when his team went down 1-7.

Asked to comment on Uzbekistan's defeat to Iran Tuesday, Azamat said that there was no shame in losing to Iran as they were the best Futsal team in Asia.

"There is no shame. We may have lost the match but we have gained great experience. The lesson learnt against Iran will help us to prepare for the AFC Futsal tournament and this is our target," he said.

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