KUALA LUMPUR: The National Football Development Programme (NFDP) will remain a government policy to achieve footballing excellence, no matter who leads the youth and sports ministry in the future.
Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the programme, which celebrates its third anniversary today, had received approval from the Cabinet prior to its implementation.
“This is a national programme launched by Prime Minister Najib Razak and during the launch, he had said this was a national programme. When it is a national policy or programme, anyone who becomes the youth and sports minister has to continue,” he told reporters during a special interview.
NFDP was launched on April 10, 2014 by Najib, along with the Mokhtar Dahari National Football Academy in Cherating, Pahang, in an effort to restore the glory of football in the country, and to become a force to be reckoned with on the international stage.
The plan, supported by the government as a whole, is not limited to the youth and sports ministry, but also includes the likes of the education ministry and the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM).
Through this plan, children aged seven to 17 will be equipped with basic knowledge of football and the style of play known as the footballing DNA, led by NFDP director Lim Teong Kim, who was a former youth coach at Bayern Munich, Germany’s most successful club.
Talent will be sought from all corners of the country by a team of scouts working closely with coaches across the country in training centres that will be opened in every district.
Khairy said by 2020, the NFDP will have about 50,000 football trainees between the ages of seven and 17, in over 300 training centres nationwide.
“The programme already has 23,000 trainees in 123 regional training centres or ‘tunas’ academies across the country within three years and that is a great achievement.
However, we have still not finished the job, which is to achieve 50,000 trainees by 2020,” he said.
He said more NFDP training centres or academies would be opened in the future, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, where districts are far apart from each other.
According to Khairy, the idea of setting up the NFDP stemmed from the fact that there was a vacuum in terms of football development programmes since only sports schools in states had a comprehensive programme.
He said the government realised that there was no serious effort from state football associations to take care of the development of football in their respective states.
Khairy, who is also Rembau MP, said response from parents towards the programme was also encouraging.
“Feedback from parents is very positive. Coaches and parents need not pay a single sen for training and coaches, we just ask them to give support to their children,” he said.
The NFDP also promotes competition, where trainees train three times a week and play weekly matches.
“This is different from before, where we only had exposure to competitions during football carnivals, but now we have matches every week, whether it be a tournament or proper league,” he added.