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Malaysia’s aim of becoming a football powerhouse in future will be aided by the National Football Development Programme (NFDP)

The National Football Development Programme (NFDP), set up after Malaysia’s success at the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, is confident of producing quality footballers for the future.

With the government putting aside RM10 million a year for grassroots development, NFDP’s immediate aim is to prepare a team that can qualify for the 2019 Under-17 World Cup.

Datuk Razali Ibrahim, the country’s Deputy Sports Minister, said there are 1,647 players between the ages of seven and twelve currently under the programme nationwide.

“There are 14 existing excellence centres and we plan to add another 14 next year,” he said after chairing the NFDP committee meeting yesterday.

“It is important that those under the programme concentrate only on football. We will make a request to the Education Ministry to bar these players from playing other sports.”

“Footballers are normally good in other sports but we preferably want them to focus on developing their skills.”

Razali is also hopeful that the funds will eventually be increased in the future, but is aware that first and foremost the programme needs to show that it can develop budding talents into something more.

“The programme needs to produce quality players before it can request for additional funds.”

“We are currently working on a small budget compared to South Korea, who have allocated US$100 million (RM300 million) for football development.”