By Tony Mariadass
Ex-internationals are ever ready to become talent scouts to help Malaysian sports have a wider base of talent to select from, but are looking for a platform to offer their services.
Several ex-internationals upon reading NST Sports story yesterday – Talent Sadly ‘Lost’ – responded that it was the best way forward for Malaysian sports and were looking forward to be a part of plan, if it takes off.
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) general secretary, Windsor Paul John, had said that Malaysia already has a lot of talent and what was lacking was the talent scout culture in Malaysia sport.
He was responding to Sport Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman’s recent comment on plans to scout for young foreign football talent and train them at the Mokhtar Dahari Academy in Gambang, Pahang, under the National Football Development Programme (NFDP).
Former football international defender, Datuk Santokh Singh said the talent scouts should exist at all levels – national, state, clubs, districts and schools.
“FA of Malaysia and especially State FAs and clubs, should engage former internationals to be their talent scouts and comb the respective states, districts and school to look for talent to be recommended for further structured training,” said the Santokh who turns 67 on June 22.
“Talent scouting is part and parcel of football setup but sadly in Malaysia it hardly exists.
“We don’t make an earnest effort to look for the abundance of talent in Malaysia and then complain there is not enough players coming through the ranks,” said Santokh when met at the three day 68th Gurdwara Cup and Sikh Festival of Sports which ended yesterday at the Royal Selangor Club in Bukit Kiara.
“Just take this Gurdwara Cup where there are definitely talent players in football, hockey and netball especially when we have junior players competing. But where are the talent scouts. It does not matter how small a competition, if it is held in a remote area, communal in nature or organised by some parents or community, we need to the talent scouts out there.”
“During yesteryear. we have many talent coming through the clubs and state leagues for the state teams. Today these leagues are either non-existence or if run, it poorly managed, the quality of the league is poor and number of teams competing has dwindled. Thus we have to go out to the districts, villages, school and search for the talent.”
Another ex-international Datuk M. Karathu said besides the states and clubs, the Ex-Internationals Association too has to be a role to push the talent scouting agenda to the relevant bodies.
“While States and clubs should engage their former state and ex-internationals to be actively involved in their development programme which besides conducting coaching clinics should also involve talent scouting, the ex-international association should make a strong effort to push their members to be absorbed by the state and club teams.
“Yes, we have ex-internationals who are coaching teams, but there are many more ex-internationals who do not want to be involved at the highest level but prefer to work at grassroots level,” said the 75-year former Perak player in the 60s to 70s, played for the national team and coached from national youth to several State teams.
Former National Coaching Board chairman, Sheikh Kamaruddin Sheikh Ahmad said that Talent Scouting is better that Talent Identification.
“Talent scouts can pick up talents in specific sports as they see the children play the game which is much more effective manner to scout for talent,” said the Assistant Professor in Department of educational study at University of Putra Malaysia.
Kamaruddin related how the talent scout system was effective in the Kem Bakat, but suffered a natural death after a while because there was no follow through.
Another ex-international football, V. Kalimutu, said the direction to engage former internationals should come from the top management of state teams and clubs.
“But sadly the top management are more interested in immediate results and pay little attention to long term development programmes or for scouting fresh talent,” said the 73-year-old who is still actively involved in grassroots coaching.
The former NFDP coaching educator said that he personally had found more than 20 talented players from the annual Royal Selangor Club (RSC) International age-group tournament from the various local teams which competed and recommend them to NFDP and of which a majority were absorbed into the programme.
“Imagine the number of youth tournaments which go unnoticed and we lose out on missing many talented players.”
Datuk K. Rajagobal, coach of PKNS and former national coach and international said that with strong domestic leagues missing, talent scouting or elaborate development programmes needs to be in place.
“I came from the domestic league system playing for a small club called Hotspurs from Setapak where I lived and then played for bigger clubs like Cholan Youth and PKNS, before being spotted and drafted to the Selangor state team,” recalled Rajagobal.
“In PKNS we do not have talent scouts but have an elaborate development programme from seven year olds to 17, and we get our players coming through this system.
“But States have a wider area to cover and with the Leagues not as competitive as before, they need to have talent scouts to travel the length and breath and every corner of their respective states to look for talent. We can wait to get players from having trials.”
The NFDP has a talent scout department with a few talent scout coaches who work closely with the respective State technical directors of their programme, but certainly they could do with more talent scouts to reach out to wider areas.
Talent scouts is in fact non-existence in all sports.
This is where the Malaysian Olympian Association (MOA), headed by Karu Selvaratnam and who have more than 300 Olympian’s from various sports can be more proactive and aggressive to offer the services of the available members to the various sports.
MOA and Ex-State and Ex-National Footballers’ Association Malaysia, headed by Datuk Soh Chin Aun, certainly have to knock hard on the doors of respective sports national and state associations, and clubs, to engage their members as talent scouts, as part of giving back to the game and also to ensure a brighter future for Malaysian sports.
However, it is important that these talent scouts are remunerated for their services and time.
Indeed, it is time for sports in Malaysia to make talent scouting as part and parcel of their respective sports master plan.