Let experts run NFDP

The Star

This should rightfully be at the end of the article.

But here goes – the 20,000-odd footballers and 1,000 over coaches under the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) should not suffer the repercussions of poor administration.

And experts should be quickly roped in to chart the future of these young talents.

Now for a quick history lesson.

In 2011, then Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek had tasked his deputy Datuk Seri Razali Ibrahim to spearhead a new football programme called NFDP.

Lim Kim Chon was appointed to oversee the programme’s operations. NFDP was intended to facilitate the FA of Malaysia (FAM) and Education Ministry in unearthing young talents. It was (and still is) common knowledge that the state football associations have failed in developing young stars.

Ahmad Shabery’s successor Khairy Jamaluddin placed much emphasis on the programme during his time in office –uncommon for politicians who often want to leave legacies of their own.

But perhaps investing in football made plenty of sense as it is Malaysia’s number one sport and any attempt to rejuvenate it from the doldrums would win the hearts (and votes) of many.

However, the perceived arrogance of those within NFDP rubbed many the wrong way. And it was not surprising to see how quickly the knives were out right after the national Under-16 team was booted out of the AFC Under-16 Championships.

Lim Teong Kim’s side – made up of NFDP footballers – lost 2-0 to Japan en route to crashing out at the group stage. Teong Kim after all had set the target of qualifying for the Fifa Under-17 World Cup – that mission ended with the defeat to Japan.

Some even compared Teong Kim and former national Under-16 coach S. Balachandran who guided the team to the quarterfinals of the same competition four years ago.

The premature exit opened a can of worms. Many want to know the exact amount spent on NFDP since 2011. Even Teong Kim’s RM175,000 per month salary is being questioned.

Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, in revealing Teong Kim’s pay, said it was “an amount of money that we do not take very lightly”.

The Muar MP also confirmed NFDP chief executive officer Safirul Abu Bakar had handed in his resignation letter and that he would want to “review the NFDP higher-ups”.

Teong Kim’s contract with NFDP is until 2020.

But the FA of Malaysia (FAM) flexed its muscles after “terminating Teong Kim’s services with immediate effect”.

While Teong Kim is not under FAM’s payroll, this move means Teong Kim will not see his name inked anywhere on the team list of any international competition involving the national squad.

NFDP’s expenditure, and given the limited funds in the government’s coffers, may turn Syed Saddiq off.

Naturally, calls have been made for FAM to take over NFDP. Some have even suggested that the NFDP should be parked under the National Sports Council.

Logically, none of these entities will want to handle the programme if no funding is coming from the government. Taking over NFDP could also mean maintaining the Mokhtar Dahari Academy in Gambang.

In fact, the National Sports Council and even the National Sports Institute would prefer to see more money channeled for their other ongoing programmes.

There’s no point crying over spilt milk. Rome was not built in a day.

FAM, being the guardian of the game, should rightfully chart the future of the talents. The national body should work closely with the Youth and Sports Ministry and Education Ministry.

Here is where the state FAs need to wake up and play their part.

Cool heads should prevail to ensure the 20,000-odd talents and over 1,000 coaches are well taken care of.

The Under-16 team may have lost today but they could very well be the stars of the national side tomorrow.

Let’s not drag the young players into this mud.

And this article ends with what Razali had to say about NFDP:

“The focus should be on developing players, to facilitate FAM.

“We must remember that it is FAM which will field a team at international tournaments, not the government.”