Youth development is the key for Malaysian football's success

The arrival of National Football Development Programme (NFDP) director Lim Teong Kim sees a bright future for the sport in Malaysia

Last week, National Sports Council (NSC) announced the appointment of a new National Football Development Programme (NFDP) director in Lim Teong Kim. Coincidentally, Teong Kim replaces his older brother, Lim Kim Chon who currently holds the reign but will depart soon for a post with Asian Football Federation (AFF).

The NFDP is fully organised and funded by the Youth and Sports Ministry. How much involvement the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) have with this project, remains unclear. Whether they are consulted before the decision is made, is unknown. Yet, when the project focus solely on football development in Malaysia, it would be odd not to have an input from the sports’ governing body.

Teong Kim is tied to a three-years contract, with the option to extend for another two years. He has been tasked to work with the seven to 12-year-olds, with the target of qualification for the U-17 World Youth Cup in 2019. When he starts work in earnest come November, Teong Kim would be taking over a project that has been in existence since June 2011.

Lim Teong Kim (L) was well-acquainted with Khairy Jamaluddin (R) (Photo credit: The Star)

So, who is this person whom the ministry has entrusted to nurture the future of Malaysian football? Teong Kim is a former international who has had playing careers in German and Austrian football. He was on the books at Bayern Munich for the best part of the last 10 years, crucially in a role that deals specifically with youth development.

However, Germany and Malaysia are two worlds apart from socio-economy to quality of players. One cannot just plug the system used in Germany and expect that to be successful in churning out high quality Malaysian footballers.

Take Japan as an example and one could definitely look at the huge stride that they have made in the last 20 years. Pre-1992, Japan has never won an Asian Cup or qualified for the World Cup. Since then, they have been four times Asian champions and have participated in every World Cup since 1998.

We will need a whole article on its own to explain in detail how Japan did it. But in essence, what Japan did was an overhaul of their system to focus on youth development. Their league was broken down and re-divided to maximise talent spotting based on geographical locations.

Network was set up across the country and local schools in building up youth academies as well as improving the coaching and scouting. Big corporations like Nestle also played a huge part in funding the successful national football training program. How successful the system is, can be seen in the quality of their existing crop of players. Each one equipped with the highest technical quality and tactical nous.

Tom Byer (centre) is very involved in developing youth football in Japan (Photo credit: Asean Football Feast)

Up until now, the exact plans for the NFDP have not been announced but without doubt the work it entails will have to be nationwide inclusive. That is the proper way to do it and not just focussing on the big cities. To this effect, Teong Kim will need an army of good coaches and good working people to help him achieve his targets.

It should be a concerted joint effort from all parties with a common understanding on the scouting front and especially on the training front. The purpose of the program would be defeated if each academy or each coach have their own ideas on what type of training is right for the selected youths.

The discipline aspect cannot be neglected. Fabio Cannavaro was in Kuala Lumpur two weeks ago and he said that football is as much about what a player does on the pitch, as well as off of it. There’s a high requirement for discipline; from the attitude to the lifestyle of each player. Current Kelantan and national defender, S. Subramaniam said that the diet is hard to control for Malaysian players because these types of discipline are not instilled in the players from young.

It is important for Teong Kim to sit down with his team (that may well include experts on diet, fitness and medicine) and decide the direction which the program should head towards. What needs to be identified is the identity of the quality of players that they want to build. Be it one that focuses on technical prowess solely or combination of other qualities. To an extent, it’s about foreseeing how football will evolve in the next five to 10 years, and finding the right concoction that will make our players successful.

Malaysian football has been in the doldrums long enough. Despite the recent mini-revival in capturing the SEA Games gold medal and winning the Suzuki Cup, we are still ranked low in the FIFA rankings. In 20 years, our ranking has plummeted when other countries were lagging behind us previously, are now too far for us to catch up to, in the immediate future.

Ranking as of Dec 1993


Ranking as of Aug 2013





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Improvement cannot be done overnight. It takes years of toil and planning to push the country’s number 1 spot back to where we used to be. The NFDP is one such tool to achieve that. As fans of Malaysian football, we can only hope that it’s a start in the right direction.


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