Davies saddened by Centre of Excellence closure

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Pahang's Matthew Davies has expressed his sadness that the FFA has decided to shut down its Centre of Excellence, where he trained as a teenager.


BY        ZULHILMI ZAINAL       Follow on Twitter


Although these days former Perth Glory defender Matthew Davies plies his trade in Malaysia, captaining Pahang in the Malaysia Super League and representing Malaysia at the international level, he came from the background of Football Federation Australia (FFA) Centre of Excellence as a teenager.

The centralised program gathers the country's most promising young footballers from ages 15 to 17 every year, housing and training them at the Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra.

Ever since it was founded in 1981, the Australian programme has unearthed the talents of Australian stars such as John Aloisi, Lucas Neill, Mark Viduka and Craig Moore.

The 22-year old defender joined the programme in 2010, going on to captain the side and was voted as the 2011/12 Player of the Year in the National Youth League while playing for them. He signed for Perth Glory in 2012, making a handful of appearances for the A-League side, before taking up Malaysian citizenship and joining Pahang in 2015. 

Those in Malaysia will note several similarities between the centre's similarities and Malaysia's own centralised youth development project; the Harimau Muda (Young Tigers) programme which ran from 2007 to 2015.

Both centralised programmes housed and trained the respective countries' best and brightest young footballers, while they played together in the same teams in various competitions.

The 'A' team of Harimau Muda competed in the 2012 season of Singapore's S-League as well as Australia's National Premier Leagues Queensland in 2014, while the 'B' team took part in Singapore's professional domestic competitions in 2013 and 2014. The Centre of Excellence meanwhile had teams in the National Youth League, as well as the Victorian Premier League.

By the end of this year, the two programmes will have shared another similarity; in that they both will not be around anymore. The FFA earlier this year has announced that the programme will be shut down at the end of 2017, with the Australian media citing a number of reasons such as increasing costs, the decline in the number of former Centre of Excellence trainees in Australia's World Cup squads, as well as the need to have A-League clubs shoulder more of the responsibility of developing young players. The Harimau Muda programme had been shut down earlier, towards the end of 2015.

Davies expressed his sadness towards the decision, when asked by Goal recently.

"I feel a little bit saddened about that, to be honest. I know they have produced a lot of players, the statistics that they pour is that a lot of the future Socceroos actually came through the Centre of Excellence.

"I think the decision had something to do with the budgeting and a change of direction. It's a bit disappointing and disheartening to learn about it," remarked the right back.

When asked whether the A-League clubs will be ready to develop their own young players, Davies response was a little sceptical:

"It won't be easy for the clubs to take over the role of giving such good training, given the lack of funding surrounding youth development.

"They (the clubs) have a big hole to fill," he said.

Davies is currently training with the Malaysia U22 side, in preparation for the 2017 Kuala Lumpur South East Asian Games (SEA Games). Malaysia's campaign kicks off on August 14 against Brunei.

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