‘Let us use Cruyff Court’

Coach Sunny (right) supervising blind footballers during a training session a few years ago at Cruyff Court, Brickfields.

BRICKFIELDS is about to get a brand new football field to replace the one that was demolished over three years ago.

Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Mahadi Che Ngah has approved plans for a modest field to be built on Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) former sports club land along Jalan Tun Sambanthan 1.

He said the old football field would be restored with basic facilities such as toilets with changing rooms and a carpark for the interim period.

“This arrangement is only for the time being to provide a space for the community to play football and organise other sports activities.

“The field will have cow grass like the one in Dataran Merdeka, and it will be equipped with floodlights so that people can also play at night,” he told StarMetro.

The mayor said he had been getting requests from the community to reopen the field as there was a lack of proper playing fields in the township.

“I also found out that there were people secretly using the Cruyff Court nearby, which is off-limits to the public for safety reasons,” he added.

Mahadi said work to restore the DBKL field would start in the first quarter of 2021, and he expected it to be ready by the end of the year or even sooner.

“The public will share the facility with the DBKL sports club members, who will manage the field like before,’’ he said.

The former DBKL sports club football field was demolished on April 18, 2017 to make way for a new building.

The old building, which would have turned 50 this year, was supposed to be replaced with a multi-facility building costing around RM50mil.

However, the project was cancelled by former mayor Tan Sri Mohd Amin Nordin in June 2018, to cut DBKL’s expenditure.

Folks prefer Cruyff Court

Brickfields stakeholders led by its Rukun Tetangga committee, the Local Agenda 21 (LA21), schools and non-governmental organisations in the neighbourhood have greeted the news with enthusiasm.

However, they want the authorities to temporarily reopen Cruyff Court, located on the former sports club land in Jalan Tun Sambanthan.

Cruyff Court, they said, had been opened to the public, especially children from the B40 community, but it was closed down a few years ago.

Despite having fallen into a state of disrepair due to lack of maintenance, the field is still being used for football in the evenings.

Cruyff Court, sponsored by Khazanah Nasional Bhd, is a collaboration between Hasanah Foundation and the Johan Cruyff Foundation.

A popular venue for sporting activities, it was opened to the public in September 2013 to provide space for students from schools, colleges, universities, football associations and NGOs to use free of charge from 9am to 7pm daily.

On March 31, 2017, the site was closed to make way for the development of the sports club land.

However, unlike the DBKL sports club football field, the court was not demolished. Rather, the facilities were boarded up and left to run down.

Local Agenda 21 (LA21) secretariat and coordinator A. Ghani Mohamed said DBKL and Hasanah Foundation should reopen Cruyff Court to the public.

“We have the facilities in place, so why close it?

“This place is the perfect platform to get youngsters to take part in sports and keep them away from unhealthy activities,” he said.

Under the LA21 agenda, Brickfields was chosen as a safe township under “Bandar Selamat Kawasan Brickfields”.

A memorandum was signed where DBKL would give more emphasis to safety, cleanliness and improvement of facilities in the area.

“LA21 programmes involve DBKL, the residents and NGOs working together to create a better and safer community here, and what better way to do that than to encourage sporting activities,’’ he said.

Ghani added that while the government imposed restrictions on sporting activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he hoped that work to repair the ageing Cruyff Court could start soon.

SMK (P) Methodist KL sports teacher Sarasvathy Annandarajah agreed with Ghani, saying the facility should be revived for the benefit of the community.

“Sports activities, to an extent, are allowed now with parents’ permission.

“But sadly there are hardly any facilities available for free for the youngsters.

“We could do with some facilities. I hope that Cruyff Court will be opened to the public again,’’ she added.

Told to leave

Cruff Court has a special place in the hearts of the community, especially the visually impaired.

National blind football coach Sunny Shalesh recalled being told by the DBKL Sports Club members back in 2017, during a training session with the team, that they were no longer allowed to use Cruff Court.

The team had been in the midst of preparing to defend their title in the biennial Asean Para Games.

“I was shocked and could not believe my ears,’’ Sunny said, adding that DBKL had told them to find another training spot.

“They said they were going to redevelop the sports club and we were given until March 31, 2017, to move out.

“The team and I were so disappointed,” he said.

Sunny was appointed by CIMB Foundation to run the Cruyff Court programme as a CSR project.

The programme, he said, became so successful that the Brickfields Cruyff Court became the main platform for disabled football athletes to train.

“I am proud to say that we became the first Cruyff Court in

the world to fully utilise the court for blind football,” he said, adding that it was in the spirit of the late football legend Johan Cruyff’s vision.

“The blind football team is the product of the Cruyff Court but sadly, since 2017, we have been moving around like a nomad looking for a place to train,’’ he said.

The Malaysian blind football team won the gold medal in the eighth Asean Para Games in 2015, beating Thailand.

In bad shape

StarMetro visited the Cruyff Court in Brickfields recently and found it to be in a dilapidated state.

“The path leading to the boarded-up court was overgrown with undergrowth and bushes.

The benches for spectators were rusted and overgrown with plants.

The surrounding drains were clogged with dried leaves and rubbish was scattered all over the area.

However, the artificial turf grass still appeared to be in good condition.

The court was launched by former Federal Territories minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor in September 2013.

StarMetro reported back then that the site would be maintained by Khazanah and its main corporate partner CIMB Foundation for at least five years, with a yearly commitment of RM200,000.

In an emailed response to StarMetro, Hasanah Foundation representative Shabana Palpanaban said: “Currently, all courts are closed temporarily due to the Covid-19 outbreak, except for Cruyff Court Brickfields which was closed earlier.

“There are plans to relocate some equipment from Cruyff Court Brickfields to a new location.’’

With DBKL building a new football court in Brickfields and Hasanah Foundation looking at a new location for its Cruyff Court in the area, city folk looking for sporting venues will soon have more options.

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