What’s next for NFDP? Where are 2017 SEA Games accounts?

The two questions in the headline have been raised repeatedly by stakeholders and observers in Malaysia. As a good friend said recently: “Malaysia is famous for all its unfinished symphonies.”

Let’s start with the National Football Development Programme (NFDP).

In 2018, I wrote an article suggesting the programme be run by experts. Today, ahead of a series of three meetings concerning NFDP, I reinforce that call – that the decision-makers should get football experts to lead NFDP and hold them accountable.

Here’s why.

Too many cooks spoil the broth

We’ve seen many parties involved in NFDP. The Youth and Sports Ministry, its funding arm National Sports Council (NSC), the Education Ministry and the FA of Malaysia (FAM), among others. Now this partnership seems pretty on paper and will work if all parties ditch their territorial approach and come together as one.

But that is as far-fetched as -John Lennon’s Imagine – a moving, meaningful song for dreamers. In reality, it’s all about ownership and the bragging rights that come with it – if success is achieved.

But when there’s failure, the blame game takes over. And we saw how ugly it got, to the point of revealing salaries as in the case of former Akademi Mokhtar Dahari (AMD) technical director Lim Teong Kim.

Also, ministers come and go. While some politicians may be football-inclined – due to personal interest or to piggy-back on the sport’s popularity – there have been (and will be) ministers who may place football on the backburner. When that happens, the lack of commitment and continuity will hamper the progress of the programme.

‘Just blame FAM lah’

Former deputy sports minister Datuk Razali Ibrahim, who was tasked to spearhead NFDP when it first started, had once said: “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.”

In short, if the national team wins, FAM will be credited but if the national team fails (which has been the norm over the past two decades), FAM will be blamed. This in return will absolve other stakeholders of the heartache and they can instead concentrate on other elite athletes who could do with some attention and sports for the masses.

If FAM, being the guardians and supposed experts of football, had it their way, they would want full control of NFDP. This is only natural to ensure their policies and philosophies will be in line from the beginning.

This will also help ensure the NFDP products will be able to move on with their football careers – whether playing for a state FA or being part of the backroom staff.

There have been arguments that FAM has been given the luxury of charting the nation’s football fortunes for decades but have failed miserably judging by the latest Fifa ranking (154 – as of July 16). True.

The reason why there has never been consistency at the top is because there is no structured development programme at the grassroots up until NFDP came into the picture. The state FAs have generally failed miserably – they seem to be fixated over the Super and Premier League teams and ignore the levels below.

Also, why should FAM hijack a programme that was initiated by the government through the Youth and Sports Ministry?

The government is not in the business of football. The same taxpayers’ money should be spent on schools, providing infrastructure, helping generate more income and building affordable homes. The money should not be spent on just one sport – especially one that Malaysia struggles to perform in consistently at the SEA Games.

The government has laid the foundation and built the facilities. It has done enough.

Also, here’s where we are reminded of what Razali said – it is FAM that fields the team in competition, not the government.

The government has laid down the track and it’s for FAM to ensure the train reaches its destination or crashes. If it’s a train wreck, just blame FAM lah.

YBs, VIPs, come help academies instead

If there are other ministers or influential personalities who are keen to develop football, they are free to do it on their own to prove a point. They don’t need NFDP.

Tengku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail Ibrahim has raised the profile of Johor Darul Ta’zim to new heights.

Khairy Jamaluddin came up with MyTeam by scouting talents nationwide through a reality show that resulted in a bunch of misfits almost defeating the national team, mostly represented by the Under-20 players, in a match in 2006. MyTeam lost 2-1 at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

Instead of holding positions within NFDP, those seeking a role in Malaysian football can start by working on the state FAs or helping academies. Kuala Lumpur FA, for example, could do with a lot of help since it has lost its relevance and can only afford to harp about its achievements in the late 80s.

There are many academies nationwide and they should be part of the structure where talents are spotted and drafted to the state.

And now, we seek closure for the 2017 SEA Games.

Where are the 2017 SEA Games accounts?

It remains unclear if Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican has been briefed about the 2017 SEA Games accounts which have yet to be made public. After all, the minister has had his hands full tackling an unprecedented challenge – Covid-19 – soon as he took office in March.

Former deputy sports minister Steven Sim, had during his courtesy visit to Twentytwo13‘s office in Taman Tun Dr Ismail in January 2019, revealed the accounts were being subjected to an external audit following a directive from the Finance Ministry. The following month, the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games Report finally surfaced – minus the accounts.

In March 2019, I wrote that the accounts were finally audited but remained with the Finance Ministry as there was one signature short – from a member of the main organising committee.

The accounts have not been made public to date.

Why is this important?

So that we know how taxpayers’ money was allocated and spent and what to expect if the government or other stakeholders intend to organise an international sporting event in the near future.

I hope this “symphony” will finally be given closure.