Friday, January 30, 2015

Barren field of dreams

Barren field of dreams

KUANTAN — Still a year short after its ambitious launch, the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) inaugurated by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in Gambang, Pahang, last April has seen pitches at the Mokhtar Dahari Academy reach a deplorable condition.

A visit to the academy on Sunday was greeted by dry pitches, hard ground, overgrown grass and barren areas.

There are five football pitches and only the one being maintained by the Pahang FA for their academy boys seemed to be in a good condition.

The other four have not been maintained for the last two months.

A check with coaches at the Pahang Sports School revealed the pitches have not been maintained because the contract of the previous contractor was not renewed.

“The pitches used to be in excellent condition when they were maintained by the previous contractor, who stationed five groundsmen at the academy,” echoed the coaches on condition of anonymity.

“They used to water the pitches via sprinklers daily, besides doing maintenance work to keep the pitches in excellent playing condition.

“But over the last two months, the pitches have been unattended and are deteriorating day by day.”

The lack of maintenance appears to mirror the behind-the-scenes problems of the much vaunted programme.

The brainchild of Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, it is headed by project director Lim Teong Kim, a former international with 12 years of youth coaching experience with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

Under the NFDP, which began in 2013, more than 52,000 players are expected to be trained by 2020 from centres throughout the nation.

But all does not seem to be going well and news that several — as many as six — senior and key coaches have resigned throws doubt on its progress.

It is sad to hear that what was supposed to be a programme to lift Malaysian football from its doldrums has faced such problems at an early stage.

There are plans to add another seven pitches in the near future to complete the academy.

The pitches are currently used by the NFDP Under-13 team and four teams (Under-17, Under-16, Under-15 and Under-14) from the Education Ministry in collaboration with the FA of Malaysia.

The players and coaches are housed at the adjacent Pahang Sports School, which has excellent hostel and training facilities for five sports, namely football, netball, gymnastics, archery and athletics.

A seminar for all coaches involved in the NFDP will be held today in the city over two days, where Khairy will be giving the opening address.

Khairy will want to get to the bottom of the issues plaguing the NFDP and resolve them immediately, for the last thing he would want is to see a good programme be derailed by poor governance.

The revelation has stark echoes of the horrendous state of the pitch at Bukit Jalil Stadium, highlighted in the Mailsport report ‘We messed up’ on Nov 5.

The Malaysian Stadium Corporation admitted the stadium was refurbished but the relaid grass, at a cost of RM1.5 million, was not given enough time to bed.

The result was huge swathes of grass being carved up during the Malaysia Cup final on Nov 1.


Former football greats and sports officials told Malay Mail it was disgraceful that the Mokhtar Dahari (Malaysia’s legendary striker) Academy in Gambang, Kuantan and launched by the prime minister last April - was besieged with problems in its infancy.
They said it also showed grassroots development in the worst possible light.
A visit to the academy on Sunday showed dried-up pitches, hard grounds, overgrown grass and barren areas. Four fields had apparently not been maintained over the last two months while the pitch under the care of Pahang FA for their academy boys seemed to be in a good state.
The academy despite its launch last April has not had a team under the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) training there.
There are NDFP centres elsewhere in Pahang.
The Under-13 NFDP squad only reported to the Pahang Sports School on January 12.
However, they have yet to begin training as their coach from NFDP, Khan Hung Meng, had not arrived. He has since resigned and his assistant Raja Azlan Shah, former Perak and Kuala Lumpur player, is expected to report this week and take charge of the team.
However, the fields at the academy have been used by teams from the Pahang Sports School (Under-17, Under-16, Under-15, Under-14 and Under13) under the Ministry of Education and FA of Malaysia programme
The pitches used to be immaculate condition when maintained by a contractor who had placed five groundsmen at the academy which included watering the pitches with sprinklers daily to keep the fields in fine playing condition.
However, the contract of the contractor has not been renewed after it ended two months ago leaving the pitches unattended.
The Mokhtar Dahari Academy under a major plan to make it the hub for football development was to have been equipped with more fields, a hostels, swimming pool and other training facilities including artificial turf.
However, there has been no new constructions yet expect for a main building and the five field.
Former international and 1972 Munich Olympics squad member, Bhwandi Hiral said it was a clear case of poor monitoring.
“Monitoring is an important element in any form of project, and it is obvious someone has slacked to lapse on the field maintenance contract,” said Bhwandi.
“Facilities maybe great, but it must be always be maintained at the best, because we are talking about facilities for excellence training. We cannot compromise on the facilities.
“If we want top quality players, we need to offer them excellent facilities and there cannot be any compromise.”
Another veteran sports official and athletic coach, Leo Leslie Armstrong, said it is normal for programmes to face hiccups but it must be addressed immediately.
“Programmes can be the best programmes but there will be hitches because of poor management or execution,” said Armstrong a former national athletics coach.
“It is the same for all sports. We always launch excellent programmes but it gets derailed because of shortcomings along the way.
“It is good that problems are identified earlier and immediate measures taken to rectify and ensure that it does not happen.
“It is pointless in getting upset when flaws in programmes are highlighted.”
Another coach who was involved in the programme said there are several issues which need to be addressed immediately to ensure that the programme proceeds smoothly.
“I just hope the coaches involved in the NFDP who are attending a two-day seminar will bring out their grouses and any problems faces,” said the coach who spoke in anonymity.
“Many are afraid to talk because of being penalised. But for the good of the programme they must speak out.
“Several coaches have left the programme because they cannot communicate with the higher ups and poor people management by them.
 “A true picture has to be presented as soon as possible before things get worse. It is a great programme but needs fine tuning and proper management.” 

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