Friday, April 18, 2014

Community programmes a wholesome way to success

 Friday, April 18, 2014 - The Malay Mail

THE most detailed development blueprints produced for Malaysian football was unveiled and launched last week by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in Gambang, Pahang.
Through two phases and five strategic core areas, the first phase of the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) will run from 2014-2020, while the second phase will run up to 2030.
Everything looks plain and simple on paper and the hope is that it will bear fruit, remaining a continued programme, instead of being disbanded the moment we get a new sports minister. This has happened in the past.
Development is an alien word in Malaysian sports. It is given low priority or when given attention, does not last. State FAs have been guilty of not having proper development programmes.
But with the Mokhtar Dahari Academy in Gambang, to house 35 Under-12 players from the MyKids Soccer programme and eventually house 500 of the best junior talent in the country by 2020, it is hoped something will be etched finally.
There will also be training at five national sports schools, 14 state sports schools, 150 district training centres and Tunas Academies (for below 12) by 2020.
It sounds excellent but execution and sustainability will be the difference between success and failure.
With the Sports Ministry being instrumental in setting up this programme in collaboration with the FA of Malaysia, it is about time the State FAs do their part in development too.
With NFDP already set-up, the State FAs can act as the feeder to the programme.
State FAs should look into community development where it deals with the masses and does not just confine itself to football, but also career development for the young.
I am in Liverpool and took the opportunity to visit Everton — known for the best football development and community programme in Europe, if not the world.
I met with Chris Clarke, the Community and Business Development manager, who gave me a brief explaination of their community programme.

Everton in the community Medicash powered wheelchair team.
It is a grand programme, and if each State FA can do something similar, even at a smaller scale, it will do Malaysian football a world of good.
The ‘Everton in the Community’ programme has 13,000 participants from young children to adults and involves close to 75 paid staff and 180 volunteers.
“Our programme works in partnership with many individuals and organisations on a local, national and international level,” explained Clarke.
“We not only work through football, but other sports too. Our mission is through the positive promotion of sport, physical activity and the Everton brand.
“We have various programme and at the same time serve as a scouting ground for coaches from Finch Farm (Everton’s stateof-art development football Academy).
“Through fundraising, we deliver the vital programmes to improve the lives of vulnerable and underprivileged people across Merseyside.
“We have to raise about £1.7 million (RM63.76m) to £2.5 million (RM13.62m) annually for our programmes. And for this year we secured close to £4.5 million (RM24.52m) worth of government and business investment.”
Everton in the Community’s work is vast and includes providing routes into education, training and employment, steering young people away from crime and anti-social behaviour and engaging children and adults, regardless of ability, in physical activity. In addition to helping individuals, ‘Everton in the Community’ helps other charitable groups improve the lives of the locals.
The Blues’ official charity is proud of its impressive achievements which include:
• Supporting 1,500 local charities a year
• Contributing to a 55 per cent reduction in anti-social behaviour and a 79 per cent reduction in crime in challenging areas across Merseyside
• 100 per cent success rate on all education programmes
• Assisting 50 per cent of participants on the employment programme to return to work
• 26 disability teams
The charity as a whole, was in 2011, named ‘Best Community Scheme in Europe’ at the Stadium Business Awards held at Nou Camp in Barcelona and also ‘Best Grassroots Club Programme’ at the inaugural Northern Sports Awards in Manchester.
It may be asking too much of the State FAs to emulate Everton’s comprehensive programme but if they can make an effort to start along those lines, it could be the best thing Malaysian football.

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