PETALING JAYA: Confining himself to his home isn’t too tough for national bowler Rafiq Ismail, at least in the first two days of the movement control order (MCO).

Rafiq, who turns 23 next Tuesday, is falling in love with all the 40 caps that he has collected over the last four years.

“I have spent a lot of time in my room since the start of MCO yesterday catching up with some Netflix series which I hadn’t been able to watch due to my hectic training schedule,” said Rafiq, the last year’s National Sportsman of the Year.

“But the best thing is that I have come to realise that I have actually amassed quite a number of caps.

“All the while, I bought and then arranged them in order on the display rack. I didn’t really count them until yesterday.

“I wear some but most are just for collection purposes. I was surprised to find that I actually owned about 40 of them.”

Rafiq said he didn’t start wearing a cap as part of his daily fashion accessories until in 2016 when he went for buzz cut hairstyle.

“The first cap I got was a free gift when I bought a pair of sandals. Coincidentally I was having a buzz cut at that time, so I started wearing it on daily basis,” he recalled.

“It suits me well and I think I look pretty cool in it. Since then, I started collecting them, especially the rare ones. If possible, no one else must have it! I bought many from trips abroad for holidays or competitions.“The average I spent for is about RM200 per cap. Although my favourite brand is New Era (a renowned baseball cap brand), the most expensive one is a RM650 Supreme.

“I take good care and cherish each of them. I even got them protected with plastic covers, costing me RM10 each!”

For a serial winner like Rafiq, he hopes that it won’t be too long before he’s able to return to the alley to train and subsequently back in competition.

It’s easy to understand why Rafiq is getting impatient with the prolonged hiatus.

If not for the Covid-19 pandemic that wreaked havoc on international sporting calendar, Rafiq could have rolled off his first competition of the year at the Brunswick Euro Challenge in Munich, Germany this week.

“Except for my injury in 2014 (when I was out for three months), I don’t think I have ever gone for a lengthy period without a tournament since I joined the national team in 2011,” he lamented.

“By the looks of it (the worsening Covid-19 outbreak), I don’t see things getting any better soon. We all just have to stay patient for now.

“After all, we didn’t really lose out on anything because every single tournament lined up thus far has been postponed.

“I believe sport is taking a backseat for all athletes in the world.Health matters more than anything else.Everyone has a part to play in the fight against this disease.”

After a brilliant 2018 that saw him became the world and Asian Games winner in 2018, Rafiq racked up six titles last year.

He won four international titles on the trot in July – the Singapore Open, EBT Masters in Spain, Hong Kong Open and ABF Tours (Hong Kong leg) – before helping Malaysia claim the trios gold at the ATBC in Kuwait in November and team gold at the Philippines SEA Games in December.

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