THE restructured National Football Development Programme (NFDP), after Malaysia’s failure to qualify for the Under-17 World Cup last year, looks impressive on paper.
But the million dollar question is whether the NFDP, set up in 2014 under former Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, is on the right track, implemented and monitored diligently.
Yes, this is going to be a long term programme but at the same time there are still many issues that need to be addressed urgently.
On the surface, with all the statistics and visuals, the programme looks one of grand design and well planned.
But beneath all that, there are still many teething problems ranging from poor quality coaches, weak monitoring of the programme, salary issues to the best players not chosen.
Several coaches involved in the programme raised these issues with Timesport but they did not want to be named.
However, it must be pointed out that there have been success stories from the NFDP in both local and international competitions in recent years.
Among the NFDP’s biggest achievements were Malaysia emerging as champions of the 2015 Costa del Sol Iber Cup in Portugal and winning the 2016 Super Mokh Cup in Kuala Lumpur. The Mokhtar Dahari Academy (AMD) Under-14 squad also lifted the Whitsun tournament in Dortmund, Germany and the Vogido Cup in Enschede, the Netherlands, last June.
Twelve players from the AMD have earned call-ups from National Under-19 under coach Brad Maloney while nine players from the AMD were recruited for the national Under-17 team then under coach Bojan Hodak.
Lim Teong Kim, who was first appointed as the NFDP technical director in 2013, assumed the post of AMD director in 2016. His contact ended end of last month.
Teong Kim’s role as the NFDP technical director has been taken over by Frechman Saad Ichalalene when the programme was restructured in December.
The restructuring of the NFDP has seen the major role of steering the programme shift from the Sports Ministry to the National Sports Council (NSC) and FA of Malaysia (FAM).
Sport Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman heads the NFDP Steering Committee with FAM president Datuk Hamidin Amin as his deputy. Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail (NSC director-general) is the secretary while FAM secretary general Stuart Ramalingam is assistant secretary of the committee.
The other members of the committee are from the sports ministry, education ministry, NSC, National Sports Institute and FAM.
There are also a working committee headed by Ahmad Shapawi and a Technical Committee headed by FAM deputy president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal.
The NFDP state programme is headed by another technical committee under Saad Ichalalene, formerly from the Paris Saint German youth academy.
FAM technical director Peter Roo is the adviser to the committee.
The roles of the various committees and agencies involved have been clearly defined, and they are expected to carry out their jobs effectively.
But how well all this work is implemented on the ground is left to be seen.
The programme is so big and overarching that it has led to the question of whether they have the manpower to carry it out well and proper, and to monitor.
The powers-that-be will claim that they have everything in place, but therein lies the problem because at grassroots level, the implementation and monitoring have left much to be desired.
For the record, the NFDP training centres are set up in layers throughout the country, from district to national level – starting with the Tunas Academies (46 centres), District Training Centres (62 centres), Sports Schools (14 schools) and Mokhtar Dahari Academy for a total of 123 centres.
The coaches in all these centres come to a total of 674, making it all together 14,728 participants.
Indeed, these are impressive numbers. But they are just that, numbers and quantity. The most important thing is about the quality and effectiveness of the programme.
The other areas of NFDP include coach educators, talent scouting, strength and conditioning and goalkeeper educators. Do they have enough personnel in these areas to carry out the tasks effectively?
Is conducting courses once a year sufficient?
Many competitions, from district to state and national level, are already in place with the Ministry of Education league (for Under-14), the Under-17 (under Super and Premier leagues).
Then Super League teams are required by the Malaysian Football League to have development programmes and youth teams. Some states and clubs like JDT, Selangor, PKNS and PJ City FC already have structured programmes and invested in youth teams.
But the others choose the easy way out by adopting a school as their programme.
JDT have spent RM2.2 million on their youth development programmes. This started four years ago and in the last two years, Malaysia have won seven youth titles.
Let’s not forget there are private academies (where thousands of children attend) all over the country which are not registered with FAM,
FAM should ask all these academies to promptly register with them so that they can be monitored and ensure that only qualified coaches are involved and that proper facilities are in place.
This huge interest in development work certainly augurs well for the future of Malaysian football but it has to be effectively implemented and monitored. There must be quality work done for the results that we desire.
With the 2020 budget announcing that the NFDP will be allocated RM45 million for next year, an increase of RM30 million (the programme started with RM3.5m before being raised to RM30m), it is hoped that the money is channeled to the right areas and used wisely.