Scouts in any sports must be professionals and until and when Malaysia have them in place, a lot of talented boys and girls are going to remain undiscovered.
Malaysia can have the best development programme in place, but without talent scouts, it is not going to have good athletes in it.
And talent scouts cannot be any Ali, Ah Chong or Muthu who has some sports background. They must have a trained eye and be able to spot talent easily.
In Europe, talent scouts, especially in football, earn a living doing what they do. Clubs hire these people to comb their regions for new talent for them.
Eckhard Krautzun, a German football coach who has handled numerous Bundesliga teams, including Kaiserslautern, Freiburg and Wolfsburg, became a public figure when he coached the Chinese national Under-20 team ten years ago.
In 1970, he was already national team coach of Kenya. Following that were stints in Canada, Japan, the Philippines and here in Malaysia besides a string of clubs overseas. But his biggest success was in Tunisia who he helped qualify for the 2002 World Cup.
Krautzun, who worked in China from 2002 to 2007, was back there recently to give talks on development and also see how the next generation of Chinese football players are coming along.
Krautzun, who still spends much of his time in China but lives in Germany, had this to say about talent scouts: “You have to scout for the right players, especially if you are in a big country. If you do not have professional scouts who know how to identify the players you will not have the best one.”
He also had this to say about goal scoring in Asia: “Poor finishing. It is an Asian disease.”
(View what Krautzun has to say at http://www.dw.de/eckhard-krautzun-millions-of-undiscovered-players/a-18215349)
It is little wonder that Malaysian coaches keep complaining about lack of depth and talent in their squads because we hardly have any talent scouts combing the length and breadth of Peninsular Malaysia, let alone East Malaysia.
State FAs and clubs hardly have any registered talent scouts in their stable. FA of Malaysia depend on the state FAs to supply them with players, but when at the base, there is no concerted effort to identify players. So, how are we going to find talent?
And talent scouting is not just about looking for talent at tournaments at the highest level, but going down to the grassroots, especially the schools and remote areas.
The Federal Territory Schools Sports Under-15 and Under-18 Inter-District football tournament has been on at Victoria Institution since Monday and the final will be played next Tuesday.
A total of twelve teams – the top two teams from each of the four districts (Gombak, Keramat, Pudu and Sentul) - are competing in each age-category on a carnival basis and compete from morning until evening on two pitches.
I have gone to the ground twice and I have not seen any Kuala Lumpur FA coach or official, FA of Malaysia personnel or even local club officials there to watch the tournament and spot good players.
Personally, I saw some good talent, although the players had to fight to stay on their feet because the ground condition is deplorable.
The organisers will readily blame the current rainy weather for the poor pitch but to play at least eight Under-15 and eight Under-18 matches on the two pitches will surely take a toll, rain or no rain.
The poor pitch condition prevented a smooth flow of the game and at the same time deprived the teams to play their best.
To make matters worse, the fixtures were not followed and some of the teams had to wait almost two hours to play their matches.
Then, as organisers claimed that the referees were qualified officials comprising teachers, their standard of refereeing was questionable. Could the organisers not get at least Class 3 or 2 match officials with the assistance of KLFA?
The organisers had a former qualified referee as their referee development officer and to be in charge of the match officials, but whether he compromised on quality to cut costs is unknown.
Then, because an official was late returning from lunch, a schoolboy was asked to stand in as assistant referee for one of the matches.
The matches were played over two 25-minute halves for the Under-18 and 20-minute halves for Under-15. Surely, cutting the duration of the matches is not going to help the development of the players who need quality match practices?
To make matters worse, there was no proper shelter for the 24 teams who converged on the pitch. Some made their own makeshift tents, others camped under the huge trees around the pitch, which is dangerous especially in this rainy weather.
Match officials had some small tents, which were flimsy and almost took off each time there was strong gust of wind.
Couldn’t the organisers have set up some proper tents for the students?
With such poor conditions at an Inter-District tournament in the city where sporting facilities are surely not lacking, how can we expect to produce quality players, let alone spot them?
Whatever happened to the days when Inter-Districts tournaments were played on a home-and-away basis?
I remember that when playing in the Selangor Schools Sports Council Under-18 Inter-District football tournament, we travelled to Kuala Selangor, Kajang, Sabak Bernam, Klang and Kuala Kubu Baru, to name but a few districts.
So long as there is lack of enthusiasm for development at schools, sports in the country is not going to improve no matter what blueprint is dished out by the various sports associations or national bodies.
Let’s get our act together by putting everything in place and in the most professional manner before even dreaming of become a sporting nation.
It is pointless to launch knee-jerk programmes from time to time and hope all goes well in sports.
Development and grassroots are long words and so is process. It is tedious and requires a great amount of work, dedication, discipline, determination, good facilities, professional administration and, above all, long-term programmes.
Development does not bear fruit overnight. Until and when we are ready to be committed and wait for programmes to mature, we will only be riding false hopes.