NFDP general manager says results may not be readily apparent, but programme ‘not a failure’

Many have criticised the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) for “being a failure”, but its general manager, Muhamad Yusuf Ibrahim, said nothing could be further from the truth.

NFDP was initiated in 2010, when Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek served as youth and sports minister.

His deputy, Datuk Seri Razali Ibrahim, was tasked with spearheading the programme and launched Akademi Mokhtar Dahari (AMD) in 2011.

NFDP received a massive facelift and an injection of funds when Khairy Jamaluddin became sports minister in 2013. As such, although it has been around for a decade, the programme is younger.

“When Khairy came in, there was more money available, and that is when we started developing and becoming what we are today,” said Yusuf, a former Negeri Sembilan youth player.

“Many do not realise that although NFDP received RM20 million in funding, the amount is not just for the AMD, the home of NFDP in Gambang, Pahang.

“The money is for 131 centres nationwide, and involves 15,200 players, 700 part-time coaches and close to 100 full-time coaches.

“We also have to buy jerseys, equipment, and food. So, RM20 million is nothing.”

On claims that NFDP had failed to develop players, Yusuf said all 34 players from its first batch, found teams, while nine recently helped Malaysia qualify for the 2022 Under-23 Asian Cup.

Malaysia topped its qualifying group with seven points from three matches to finish ahead of Thailand, Laos and Mongolia.

“Our first batch of players were born in 2002, and are 19 this year. Thirty-three of the 34 players found teams in the local league. One – Luqman Hakim Shamsudin – is based in Europe.

“They, however, are not the first choice in their teams. So, many assume they are failures,” Yusuf told football talk show Rembat!, hosted by Twentytwo13’s Haresh Deol and Graig Nunis.

“For the recent Under-23 Asian Cup qualifiers, 13 of our players were in the training squad, and nine were in the final list.

“I cannot guarantee all those players will go on to play for the senior team. Nothing is certain in football.”

He then used a farming analogy, saying that farmers can plant many trees, but not all would bear fruit.

“It is the same with NFDP.

“To me, AMD stands for ‘Achieving Malaysian Dreams’. The dream is to one day qualify for the World Cup. It is not easy, but let us work towards that.”