There is still hope for Malaysian soccer. Thanks to private soccer academies which are mushrooming all over the country.
These academies exist in various forms. Some are well organised, normally by recognised clubs like Royal Selangor Club(Royal Selangor Club Soccer Academy website), Penang Sports Club, Ulu Kelang Recreation Club(UKRC Soccer Academy website), and Councils and District like Majlis Perbadanan Petaling Jaya, Petaling District and PKNS to name a few. (Read here)
Then we have private academies where some well established like Brazilian FA, Junior Soccer School Malaysia, Youth Football Academy among them.
There are at least 30 such soccer academies in the Klang Valley itself.
While some are community orientated and only charge nominal fees and some even offer free clinics like the one held every weekend by former Selangor international K. Kanagaraja in Bandar Tun Razak (read this story), many are profit orientated.
More often than not, only those who can afford a minimum of at least RM50 per month can find their way into these academies. There was one academy recently who even charged as high at RM300 per month - this is for the rich and famous kids who come in fully tinted luxury cars with bodyguards trailing not far behind.
We even have leagues for these teams and two Leagues which readily come to mind in the Klang Valley are the National Junior Community League (NJCJ), which began in May and will end in October and the Little League in Subang Jaya managed by residents of the area.
The NJCJ is run by an event management company Hand Print where 24 teams compete. They have even tied by with Astro and have a weekly one hour programme on the League. However, despite it being a good programme, the organisers are struggling to make ends meet because of poor response from sponsors. It would be a shame if such a good programme has to be scrapped because of lack of support from sponsors.(National Junior Community League website)
However, whatever said about the academies, they are indeed the saviour to Malaysian football because they are doing the work for the respective State FAs and schools.
In fact, the State FAs should adopt these academies and support them financially as their future players are going to come from here.
State FAs and the FA of Malaysia, should also make sure that all these academies register with them, so that they can not only give some financial assistance, but also technical assistance. The soccer bodies should also make it a point to send their talent scouts (if they have any....) to all these academies and tournaments to pick up the cream of the players.
(Above) - Aliff Haiqal, who plays in the National Junior Community League, donning Youth Football Academy (YFA) colours, scored a hattrick in the RSC International Under-12 7s final and was adjudged the Man-of-the-Match.
(Below) The finalists - Youth Football Academy (Red) and 1st Touch Assumption (Blue)
Last weekend at the Royal Selangor Club International 7s for Under-12, there was not one official from the State FA or the national body to observe or spot talents.
But Olympic Council of Malaysia, secretary-general, Datuk Sieh Kok Chi and former Asian Football Confederation secretary-general, Datuk Peter Velappan - both staunch believers of grassroots development - were present.
RSC U-12 International 7s championship Champions - Youth Football Academy
Definitely the soccer academies need to be given better recognition and must be monitored so that the best training and exposure can be provided to these young children.
State FAs especially and the FA of Malaysia, should act immediately unlike when the Futsal craze begun and nothing was done to monitor it. Futsal centres were mushrooming all over the country and only when it got really big, FA of Malaysia decided to take notice and monitor it.
There were times when Futsal courts existed in shop houses with just a thin green carpet as a turf.
I am definitely not taking the Soccer Academies to task, but merely suggesting that with better cooperation from the soccer authorities, it will benefit the game in a more meaningful way.
In any case, Kudos, to all those involved in the grassroots development and continue your good work.