Ahmad Faizal: Pro sports clubs the way forward

Professional sports clubs play an important role in the development of sports in Malaysia, especially at the grassroots level.

Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu (Bersatu – Tambun), however, highlighted that 70 per cent of professional clubs registered in the country were inactive.

“The ministry supports the formation of professional clubs to encourage and develop sports,” said Ahmad Faizal, in his winding-up speech in Parliament this afternoon.

“Professional clubs not only develop sports at the grassroots level but also create more talents. They are managed professionally and do not rely on government funding.

“However, 70 per cent of the 8,354 registered professional clubs in Malaysia are inactive,” Ahmad Faizal said, adding that “quality is better than quantity”.

Ahmad Faizal added that his ministry would continue to push for the creation of a sporting culture among Malaysians.

“We must prioritise this as this contributes to the wellbeing of the people. People will be active and healthy, and this will increase productivity,” Ahmad Faizal said.

“Activity related to sports will also help the economy. The sports industry, although only two decades old, can contribute to the government and nation. Its potential is huge.”

Ahmad Faizal also said the RM240 million allocation for the Podium Programme had resulted in a significant increase in the number of athletes under the programme.

“Following the allocation for four years, there’s been an increase in the number of athletes under the Podium Programme … from 321, to 776 athletes. That’s an increase of 142 per cent.

He explained that 346 athletes and para-athletes from 26 sports have received new contracts to train full-time, while 430 athletes and para-athletes from the same number of sports would undergo training in phases.

He also added that in addition to the perks and benefits provided to the athletes — including allowances and accommodation — continuous efforts were being made to ensure they had a future after sports.

“The National Sports Council, through its Malaysian Athlete Career And Education (MACE) programme, looks into the athletes’ future. MACE has collaborated with various institutes, and offers customised programmes and sponsorships for the athletes to further their studies.”

Ahmad Faizal added that 59 athletes were pursuing a degree in sports management and communications under the programme, and that MACE had also collaborated with the Malaysian Armed Forces and police to provide the athletes with a career path. He added 34 athletes were now with the Armed Forces, while 15 athletes had jobs with the police.

To a question by Maszlee Malik (Pakatan Harapan – Simpang Renggam) about working with the Education Ministry to identify and mould para-athletes in schools, Ahmad Faizal said: “Our ministry has started talks with the Education Ministry to carry out more competitions, including among para-athletes.”

Maszlee also asked if the ministry would house the young para-athletes in a specific school or centre, just like how the junior athletes are housed in sports schools.

“We need to have more competitions at the grassroots level to identify talents. And we need to identify the talents first before we can start thinking of housing them in one place. Their parents may also find it difficult living away from their children. Let’s start with polishing our talents first.”

Earlier, Ahmad Faizal highlighted that 71 youths with autism had undergone a youth autism inclusivity skills programme between 2018 and 2021. The programme was carried out together with the National Autism Society of Malaysia.

He added that to ensure that technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in the country was on par and up-to-date, 161 youth workers had joined the National Dual Training Scheme that was carried out by 13 National Youth Skills Institute involving 19 programmes, last year.

“It is hoped that these efforts and initiatives by the ministry will help the government in dealing with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and prepare our young ones to improve on their skills, especially digitalisation skills, in line with the development of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he added.