WHAT are the chances of a Malaysian footballer making it big in one of the top leagues in Europe?
We have had many false dawns. Titus James Palani, Rudie Ramli, Akmal Rizal Rakhli and Lim Teong Kim come to mind. Not to mention the many who FAM had sent to Germany and France throughout the years ... only for the players to return home and play in the domestic league.
Recently, four Malaysian boys made a trip to Germany.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip to attend the Allianz Junior Football Camp (AJFC) at European football giants Bayern Munich.
This five-day training camp was held at the club’s famed Sabener Strasse football academy where 70 boys and five girls from 28 countries converged to experience what it’s like to train like a Bayern Munich youth player.
Muhd Adam Mohd Rais, S. Linggeswaran, N. Kumaravel and Wan Muhd Iqmal Wan Nizar, aged 15 to 16, were certainly in awe of the facilities at the academy – which included synthetic and natural-grass fields, an indoor basketball court, gym and other amenities that make this training ground one of Europe’s best.
It is also the ground where the club’s and Germany’s future stars will graduate from, just like how it has produced the likes of Philipp Lahm, Thomas Mueller and Bastian Schweinsteiger – all household names in world football now.
But will this trip inspire our boys to achieve their footballing ambitions to play in Europe’s top divisions? Or will they follow the well-trodden path of their seniors, who are contented to play at home?
Judging from the camp, our boys can certainly hold their own against the others.
In fact, Kumaravel helped his team win the camp’s tournament, playing as a defender-sweeper with great composure – and even scoring one of the penalties in the final.
Lingges (as he was called at the camp) and his team finished third while Muhd Iqmal’s side were eliminated early on. Muhd Adam did not participate in the tournament because of a blistered foot.
So, it is evident that we do have the raw material that can be polished to become gems.
But do the kids have the desire and discipline to make the grade?
According to Bayern’s Under-15 coach, Peter Wenninger, the academy’s players train for up to six days a week, going through the drills repeatedly until they become proficient.
“What I look for is technique ... that’s the most important,” said Wenninger.
“You can do all the tricks you want but it has to mean something ... it must have a purpose ... a goal.”
The coach also said that he does not see size as a big factor to succeed in football.
“Pep (Guardiola – Bayern’s head coach) likes small players ... and more and more Asians are playing in the Bundesliga. So, I do not see (the lack of) size as a problem,” said Wenninger, who stressed the need for the youngsters to have a winning mentality and have fun at the same time.
“The players need to sacrifice a lot to become a top player, but he must also have fun playing the game. If not, what’s the point?
“Over here (in Bayern Munich) we have a winning mentality ... always. This is what it takes to make it ... a balance between having fun and training hard with a winning mentality.”
The Malaysian boys also seemed to understand that to make it big in football, it will require a lot of sacrifice and dedication to improve one’s game.
“We learnt a lot from this camp ... especially about discipline,” said Lingges, who along with Muhd Adam and Muhd Iqmal were selected for the camp from the trials held in Shah Alam in June.
Kumaravel won his spot via a wildcard slot from the trial in Bali in August.
Added Muhd Iqmal: “The training here is very professional and systematic. We will give our highest commitment when we return home to improve our game.
“We all want to become footballers and I give myself five years to make it.”
Two youngsters who had attended the camp – Damien Lim Chien Khai and Luveen Visnu Anandhan – are now plying their trade with the Harimau Muda A squad in Australia’s Queensland Premier League and Armed Forces in the President’s Cup competition respectively.