Courage to back-pass could just turn the National Football Development Programme around

I don’t understand why people get so angry when I make a back-pass in football, just like how I don’t understand why people get so mad with politicians doing a U-turn.

Would you rather our politicians, often consumed with towering self-belief, plough on on a ridiculous move? I wouldn’t.

Let’s look at the National Football Development Programme (NFDP).

The programme was initiated during Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek’s tenure as youth and sports minister.

His successor, Khairy Jamaluddin, carried on with the programme as he expressed his desire to change the way football talents in the country were unearthed, which subsequently challenged the authority, and in a roundabout manner, questioned the potency of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM).

Although this was then a popular initiative among the fans, especially with the promise of qualifying for the World Cup, the NFDP was met with disdain and resistance from the association.

Some learned football experts tried talking the minister out of it. However, Khairy and company decided to charge ahead with the programme anyway, ignoring the many objections.

Khairy’s successor, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, also boldly forged ahead with the programme, stirring a great deal of debate. The technical director at the time, Lim Teong Kim, was thrown under the bus and the minister brazenly proclaimed at the budget announcement that more taxpayers’ money would be allocated to the programme.

The ‘success’ of the programme was ‘justified’ by the move of wunderkind Luqman Hakim to a professional football club in Belgium which, lo and behold, belongs to Malaysian businessman Tan Sri Vincent Tan.

As youth and sports minister, Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican kept the programme going, and attempted to address its lack of vision by tackling concerns regarding its continuity.

The FAM-National Sports Council (NSC) football team was assembled and was sent to compete in the second tier of Malaysian football competitions – the Premier League. Even though this partnership between the association and the NSC seemed like a match made in heaven, the team was an accident waiting to happen.

And as many observers had expected, it turned out to be another awful setback. In fact, it was downright savage.

Today, many years and millions of ringgit in taxpayers’ money later, the programme is still finding its footing within our football ecosystem. Without FAM’s support and involvement, and being detached from the critical realities of domestic and international football, having a programme like NFDP is just like having a Ferrari on Cameron Highlands – an awkward luxury with its own set of thorny pains.

We need to stop demonising politicians when they make U-turns, and instead, start celebrating them for being broad-minded, and having the courage to abandon a flawed
idea.

Or, in the case of the NFDP, to re-look and re-examine ways on how to further nourish the programme and turn it into an equitable and proper ‘national’ initiative.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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