IF you have been reading my previous articles, you’d know by now that the past two years have been the toughest of my career.

I was in a team that wasn’t performing well, and I was getting hit with injury after injury.

But now as a player for Royal Malaysia Police Association Football Club, I am starting to see the light again.

I am reminded of how it feels to win, to walk off the field as a victor, and how it feels to make our fans proud, which is ultimately what all footballers aim to do. And this was possible because I chose not to give up.

Right now, I’m excited that I was able to reach the quarterfinals of the FA Cup. This is my first time getting past the second round of the competition.

In my previous team – the Malaysian Armed Forces Association Football Club – we exited the cup competition early on for four consecutive years.

But the beauty of knockout competitions is in the fact that underdog teams get a chance to upset the big boys.

And that’s exactly what we did when we knocked out the Red Giants (Selangor FA), defeating them 2-1 away from home.

We didn’t have much time to celebrate the win, because we were drawn with another powerhouse in Malaysian football – Johor Darul Ta’zim – for the quarterfinals.

We put up a good fight in the first leg, but we still ended up losing 1-0.

Come April 2 (which is also my birthday), we will go to the enemy’s camp and David will fight Goliath once more. Beating JDT would be the best birthday gift I could hope for.

In short, the positive vibes are finally back, and I couldn’t be happier.

Reuben (left) has recently recovered from a bout of injuries to play for a new team – the Royal Malaysia Police Association Football Club – this season. ― SAZUKI EMBONG/The Star

Reuben (left) has recently recovered from a bout of injuries to play for a new team – the Royal Malaysia Police Association Football Club – this season. ― SAZUKI EMBONG/The Star

The first game where we beat Sarawak 1-0 at home, I just couldn’t fall asleep the night before. Fans might not always see this side of footballers, but it happens.

Long story short, I ended up feeling like a zombie the next morning.

But this made me realise I was experiencing something I had missed dearly for two years – the joy and excitement of playing football.

I’ve learnt that a footballer doesn’t always have to win, that we don’t always have to have everything together. The important thing is how you react when life doesn’t go your way.

Greek philosopher Epictetus once said: “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters”.

The challenges I faced throughout my injury nightmares have made me a stronger and more determined person.

Many of us have experienced tough times in our careers, studies or business ventures. It may not always be a physical blow to the body like in my case, but mental stress can be even worse.

I’ve had people come up to me and say my injuries are a sign from god that you’re not supposed to play football. Comments like those made me wonder whether this was all worth it. But now I know better.

So, dear readers, I encourage you to hang in there and hold on tight to your dreams.

There’s always light at the end of the tunnel, but nothing will change if you don’t move towards it.

My dream is to don the national colours again. If I fall, I will get up. If I fail, I will try again.

Two years, two serious injuries and two rounds of rehabilitation. If I have to go through it another the time, I will do so with this same tenacity because I know that light is shining brightly for me at the end of the tunnel.

K. Reuben is a professional footballer fighting to regain his spot in the Malaysian national team.

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