The inside story of how football stars are made

Luis Pablo Pozzuto with Maradona in Kuala Lumpur in 2016 during the Argentine legend’s two-day private visit.

After 23 years in Malaysia as player, coach and scout, there is little that Luis Pablo Pozzuto, 51, does not know about spotting football talent.

He has been through the rigours of making it to the top, from his beginnings as a former Argentina youth squad striker and La Albiceleste trainee, playing alongside Diego Maradona,

He has been in Malaysia for the past 23 years as a top player, coach, and talent scout, and for the past 15 years. as coach at the football academy, Kuala Lumpur Youth Soccer (KLYS).

In Malaysia, he played for Kelantan and Penang (2001-03) before going on to coach several teams in the local leagues.

Luis talks to FMT about the absence of a talent scouting system in the country that was highlighted last week. He says the Football Association of Malaysia should cultivate the ability to spot local talent, nurture it and give it a chance to develop.

Do you think Malaysia is reluctant to implement a talent scout system?

I cannot understand why Malaysian football has not embraced this culture. It is baffling that the importance of talent scouts to the development of football has not sunk in.

Young talent should be a major focus in Malaysia where there is great passion for football. Malaysia will be left far behind if they do not push forward with this thinking urgently.

Luiz Pablo is puzzled why Malaysian football has not forged ahead with talent scouting

Is bureaucracy a hindrance to kicking off the system?

Failure by the guardians of the game to absorb the benefits from talent scouting is puzzling.

I am also confused why the many ex-internationals and experienced coaches are ignored. They would fit in well with the system as many of them are waiting to give back to the game.

Johor FC is probably the only club with a proper youth development scheme, like Argentina and Spain.

Youngsters there go through the fundamentals from one age group to another before moving into the professional set up.

The FAM, state football associations and clubs should make talent scouts their eyes to spot new talent.

What would be the future of Malaysian football without talent scouts?

While Malaysia might be doing fairly well at international level, the severe lack of academy players coming through is glaring.

The cardinal rule in development is to spot them early and build a big base of promising youngsters.

I am not taking anything away from the National Football Development Programme, but talent scouting will help ferret out promising players from all corners of the country. Talent scouts help youngsters from urban to rural areas to achieve their dream of making it big.

It is a valuable partnership that should be encouraged for the sake of the kids and the future of football here.

Under Luis Pablo, the KLYS Under-20 team emerged champions in the Gothia Cup in Shenyang, China in 2016.

You make it sound like Malaysian football will go nowhere without talent scouts.

Without a large pool of young players, football development will stutter.

Not all players identified by talent scouts will make it big. What is important is that the youngsters will get an opportunity to get to train under a good development programme and qualified coaches.

Some may go on to play for youth teams or clubs in the local or national league; a few may become national players; and others may even play abroad.

Certainly, Malaysian football will go somewhere in income creation for ex-internationals, and former coaches and physical education teachers.

What is your track record of spotting talent in Malaysia?

I spotted current national and naturalised player, Mohamadou Sumareh, at the age of 10 when he was playing for MAZ International School in Shah Alam.

I invited him to join KLYS and when he was 17, I took him to E. Ellavarasan, the ex-international and then Felda coach, who gave him his break.

Today, we have three KLYS players playing with the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor youth teams and Kelantan FC.

Several foreign players from KLYS have returned home to play for youth teams or clubs in their respective countries.

We should strive to bring players through, find them good value that allows them to survive and prosper.

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