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By Ahmad Nazrin Syahmi Mohamad Arif
KUALA LUMPUR, April 5 -- The sixth defeat suffered by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM)-National Sports Council (NSC) Project Squad in the Premier League competition this season sends a clear signal that something needs to be done, and fast.
The string of defeats has led fans to dub the FAM-NSC Project Squad as a three-point-bank for rival teams in the Premier League.
This writer thinks that allowing players as young as 18 to compete in such a high-intensity professional league is not helpful to youth talent development, as they really need more time to grow before competing at such a high level.
It is also not fair to compare the effectiveness and successes achieved by the Harimau Muda programme established in 2007 and the formation of the current FAM-NSC Project Squad.
This is because the Harimau Muda programme was filled with the best youth players, while the FAM-NSC Project Squad has 28 players, and only six of them possess experience in competing in the Youth Cup involving the FAM Under-19 championship.
The Harimau Muda squad that won the 2009 Premier League season also did not compete against foreign players, while the FAM-NSC Project Squad currently face foreign players in all the other teams.
Previously, Mokhtar Dahari Football Academy director Lim Teong Kim had claimed the decision to create such a squad did not make sense, and that it would ‘kill’ the career development of the player at such a young stage.
National football legend and commentator Khalid Ali also felt that the effort to develop young talent through the FAM-NSC Project Squad was not how the players should be developed.
In addition, he said the squad was filled with unqualified individuals who did not possess enough knowledge nor experience in football development.
The FAM-NSC Project Squad is led by former national player Yusri Che Lah and is assisted by Noor Zaidi Rohmat as assistant coach, Hamsani Ahmad (goalkeeping coach) and Nor Ikhmar Madarsa (strength and conditioning coach).
This writer, however, does not blame the coaching staff who have shown 100 per cent commitment in carrying out the duties entrusted to them.
Instead, the FAM or NSC should immediately try to seek solutions to overcome this issue, as the streak of losses will only kill player motivation and definitely not inculcate a winning spirit in them.
If these players truly are the country’s footballing future, then a bold decision must be made to avoid a potential catastrophe.
Perhaps, competing in the Youth Cup or the President’s Cup might be a better way to boost the morale of these young national players.
The FAM-NSC Project Squad have lost to Terengganu FC II 0-4, Kelantan FC (1-2), Selangor FC 2 (2-4), PDRM FC (1-3), Negeri Sembilan FC (0-2) and Johor Darul Ta'zim II (0-5) in the Premier League competition so far.
If we look back at FAM’s decision to dissolve the Harimau Muda programme in 2015, it was done with the purpose of returning the responsibility of developing youth players to clubs.
Therefore, FAM must always encourage football clubs in the Malaysia League to support the effort, in order to ensure the continued development of the country’s footballing talents.