‘NFDP not a failure’

Lim Teong Kim

It was a random phone call by one who was eager to make a point.

Judging from his tone, Lim Teong Kim was not about to exchange pleasantries or share a joke or two. The former international wanted to get something off his chest and silence his critics.

He is after all, the man who returned to Malaysia with plenty of pomp and fare, having spent 12 years as a coach with Bayern Munich.

In 2013, he was named the project director of the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) and in 2016 appointed director of Mokhtar Dahari Academy (AMD)

But it was no fairytale run for Lim. His outspoken ways rubbed the other coaches and officials the wrong way. While his young footballers had chalked up successes in several tournaments, Lim was dragged into a public debate after the Under-16 squad last year failed to qualify for the Under-17 2019 World Cup in Peru.

His salary was made public while the inadequate and unmaintained facilities at the multi-million ringgit AMD in Gambang, Pahang came under scrutiny.

Fast forward to today, 12 AMD players – all aged 17 – were called up by national Under-19 coach Brad Maloney for centralised training. The AMD Under-17 team, comprising second string players, edged Kuala Lumpur’s Under-21 team 1-0 in the President’s Cup yesterday. AMD Under-17 is currently fifth in the league.

Lim insists this is a testament of NFDP and AMD’s capabilities, resulting in the national team enjoying a larger pool of talents.

He speaks to Twentytwo13 about NFDP and AMD.

The national Under-19 (coach) has called up 12 players from the AMD Under-17 team … 12 players … the biggest contingent from AMD. When Bojan (Hodak) was coach (before Maloney), it was nine players. The game against Kuala Lumpur’s Under-21 team, in Kuala Lumpur, our Under-17 team won 1-0. They were all reserve players. The other age-group teams are also doing well in their respective leagues.

So this programme is not a failure. It’s just that people are not patient enough. NFDP’s mission and long-term goal was to produce players for the national team. The short-term goal was qualifying for the Under-17 World Cup … such targets are continuous but our main target is to produce national players. When we have 12 players representing the Under-19 national team, what does this say about our job? How can people call it a failure?

During the qualification for the Under-17 World Cup, NFDP was only three and a half years old. Do you know that the boys that came to me played organised football at the age of 12. And those in football don’t even know what development is all about. All they said was ‘it (NFDP) was a failure’. But they do not understand development. I work with targets, with goals. Even if I failed last year, if you gave me another team, I would say I will want to qualify for the Under-17 World Cup again.

The job is not finished yet. These boys must play in the national (senior) team but you need continuation.

The question is, what will happen to the footballers once they leave AMD?

I’m worried that they may end up like the current Under-21 teams (participating in the President’s Cup). The investment in developing these young footballers over the past four years will be wasted if they are not placed on the right track. These are valid concerns as we have invested energy and time.

I have my ideas and answers but I’m not employed to answer (on the career progression after AMD). You should ask those who are employed to do this.

There are many coaches out there who don’t understand development. Ask those coaches who played our teams, ask them what type of football are they playing … what kind of philosophy are they playing?

Speak to coaches who have worked with me for the past five years. Ask them if my philosophy is good or full of sh*t. Ask our opponents about the type of play AMD players adopt.

Only those who have stood by NFDP from day one should be credited for the current results. Being placed fifth in the (President’s Cup) league, doesn’t that say anything? They aren’t the bashing boys.

We had an Under-17 team beating an Under-21 state team. In Europe, this will never happen. But stakeholders are quick to criticise NFDP, judging us on the short-term goal.

The AMD boys have good technique, good individual skills are have mature tactical understanding.

Maybe what I say will not do justice to the team, so go ask the other coaches. I don’t want to be seen as blowing hot air. All I want to say is that, we are doing something.”

(The 12 AMD players called up for the national Under-19 team are Sikh Izhan Nazrel Sikh Azman, Ali Imran Sukari, Luqman Hakim Shamsudin, Muhammad Raimi Shamsul, Harith Haiqal Adam Afkar, Muhammad Firdaus Ramli, Muhamad Umar Hakeem Suhar Redzuan, Ahmad Zikri Khalili, Muhammad Firdaus Kaironnisam, Muhammad Nuh Azlan Syah Mohd Yusof, Muhammad Azrin Afiq Rusmini and Muhammad Fahmi Daniel Mohd Zaaim.)