A senior Malaysian coach says it is only natural to see a large representation of young footballers from the Mokhtar Dahari Academy in the national Under-19 team as these players are the cream of the crop.
Responding to Twentytwo13‘s article ‘NFDP not a failure’ published on Tuesday, former national coach B. Satiananthan said states played the role of developing young footballers in the past, citing the late Datuk Ahmad Basri Akil’s work in unearthing new talents during his years with Kedah FA since the 80s.
“A large number of AMD players were called up for the national Under-19 team. We’ve seen this happening in the past as in Ahmad Basri’s time. Younger players were going up against the older boys and even defeating them,” said Satiananthan.
“Akmal Rizal (Rakhli), at the age of 17, represented the Under-19 national team and a year later was part of the Olympic 2000 squad. He was playing against those elder than him. Many others did the same. So it’s nothing new.
“In the past, the states used to do it. Now, it’s become a national agenda.”
Satiananthan added that when the best of the young players go up against the rest, they will “obviously look good”.
“The AMD boys train daily. They are the best of the best from all over the country. Obviously 70% of them should be part of the national team.
“If you compare with other football academies, some only gather their players over the weekends while schools don’t even have proper training sessions.”
AMD director Lim Teong Kim told Twentytwo13 that 12 AMD players – all aged 17 – were recently called up by national Under-19 coach Brad Maloney for centralised training.
Lim said people were not patient enough as the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) was not a failure and that its long-term goal was to produce players for the national team. He also wondered what would happen to the players once they left AMD.
To that, Satiananthan said: “It’s the same question asked everywhere around the world. If the players are good enough, they will join the state teams. If they aren’t good enough, they find jobs. This is the reality of football.
“I’ve seen a Japanese club with 10,000 youth players but one, only one, makes it all the way to the senior team,” added Satiananthan who is Selangor head coach and president of the Football Coaches Association of Malaysia.
“It’s not difficult to identify a talented player but the difficulty is managing the player to reach full potential.”
He said only the best, fittest and toughest will survive in the football pyramid.
In 2011, then Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek had tasked his deputy Datuk Seri Razali Ibrahim to spearhead the then new football programme – NFDP.
Lim’s elder brother 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 state football associations have failed in developing young stars.
In 2013, Lim who spent 12 years with Bayern Munich, was named NFDP project director and in 2016 appointed director of AMD.
The NFDP and AMD came under intense scrutiny after the Under-16 squad last year failed to qualify for the Under-17 2019 World Cup in Peru. Malaysia finish bottom of Group A in the qualifiers which resulted in a public outcry. Lim’s salary was revealed while the inadequate facilities at the multi-million ringgit AMD in Gambang, Pahang came under scrutiny.
“I don’t think people called NFDP a failure. It’s a good programme. But the way the team played in the Under-17 World Cup qualifiers … yes, I, for one, criticised the tactics employed during the tournament,” Satiananthan added.