I wish to state from the outset that I, generally, have no problem with the National Football Development Programme (NFDP).
If the government wants to spend RM45 million to develop football talents, that’s fine by me – so long as the stakeholders sort out the placements of the footballers fairly and address the obvious under-representation in the sport.
I don’t care how much those running NFDP will yell and wave their arms but NFDP graduates belong to the rakyat. Public funds were used to fuel the programme in the hope the youngsters would one day add excitement to our local football competitions, compensate for the lack of talent development among state football associations, and do the nation proud in future international football competitions.
Selangor and Johor fans are elated as their teams seem to only have access to the graduates. There’s also the saga involving Luqman Hakim Shamsudin whose stint in Europe will not offer anything in return to NFDP.
The fans, in general, are not going to be happy that taxpayers’ money is being spent on developing talents for two well-to-do teams and scouts who are eager to cash in on our valuable young footballers.
However, what everyone needs to remember is that NFDP is government-funded. Hence, it is only compelling and rightful that the programme safeguards the public’s investment by signing an agreement with the talents upon their graduation and ensure some kind of sustainability to the programme.
Only when the programme is able to secure their assets, can they explore prospects of a sustainability programme through transfer fees, solidarity fees or training compensations from foreign and local football clubs interested to sign the NFDP graduates as professionals.
And while we’re on the subject of doing what’s right, I would be fully grateful and appreciative if the programme would also address the gender imbalance or under-representation prevalent in local football.
One might argue that this is the role of the FA of Malaysia (FAM), and it is correct. But that does not mean that the programme does not need to address this societal concern.
In fact, since the programme is a public commodity, it is also their duty and obligation to address this matter of contention.
According to a recent Twitter poll by Bahas Bola, social stigma and anxiety are the biggest contributing factors to the serious lack of female participation in football.
What staggers me the most is that the growing stigma and anxiety also stem from a substantial lack of initiative from the government to address the matter.
In other words, the absence of such leadership from the government reinforces the social stigma or shame and aggravates the anxiety experienced by many women and girls in football.
And it’s the same story with racial under-representation as well.
Unless Malaysia manages to qualify for the World Cup to occupy the minds of the unforgiving fans, they will keep on bickering about NFDP. And when they do, the continuity and survival of the programme will depend entirely on the whims of those fans.
Go sustainable. And while you work on that, appease the public by illustrating a laudable level of fairness and equal opportunity.
This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.