BRICKFIELDS residents in Kuala Lumpur, especially the B40 group, have to bid goodbye to their beloved Cruyff Court.
Its owner, Hasanah Foundation, which is under Khazanah Nasional Bhd, has decided to relocate it to Kampung Baru.
Foundation programme coordination head Intan Zalila Mohd Yusof said Cruyff Court Kuala Lumpur (CCKL) in Brickfields had been operating since 2013 and had to be closed in 2016 when Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) announced its temporary closure to upgrade the existing sports facilities.
“Throughout the years, CCKL has served and benefitted the surrounding community, children and people with disabilities, through various activities and sports programmes held at the venue.
“But our contract with DBKL to use the land expired in 2018 and there is no clear indication of the reopening of CCKL.
“Hasanah Foundation is pleased to share that we have embarked on the construction of two new courts in Kuala Lumpur. One is in Kampung Baru and the other in Gombak, to also benefit the Orang Asal community.
“Once the new courts are ready, there will be a total of four Cruyff Courts in Kuala Lumpur, ” she said.
Intan Zalila said Hasanah Foundation and the Johan Cruyff Foundation hoped to continue providing a safe recreational space for children from the B40 community as well as youths and specially-abled children to form social bonds.
“We have several plans in the pipeline, including opening more Cruyff Courts in different locations and communities throughout the country.
“It is unfortunate that the pandemic has delayed the review and relocation process.
“All related parties have been duly informed of our decision on CCKL, ” she added.
Cruyff Court is a worldwide project under the Johan Cruyff Foundation set up in 1997.
The field was created by the late Dutch football icon, who died in 2016 at age 68, as a space for a community to play football, especially for children — including those with disabilities — to grow, make friends as well as improve their physical and mental health.
It is a synthetic field that is much smaller than a regular football pitch.
Johan Cruyff Foundation has seen the growth of hundreds of Cruyff Courts both in its homeland and abroad since the first one was built in Lelystad, the Netherlands, in 2003.
In Malaysia, Cruyff Court is a collaboration between Hasanah Foundation and the Johan Cruyff Foundation. It is sponsored by Khazanah Nasional.
The partnership was established in 2012 when Cruyff was in Johor Baru to open the Iskandar Cruyff Court.
There are six of such courts in the country — three of which are in Kuala Lumpur, namely Brickfields, PPR Air Panas and PPR Seri Semarak.
Since its inception, 65,671 people have utilised Cruyff Courts nationwide.
Currently, all courts are closed temporarily because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The court that opened in September 2013 was operating on the former DBKL sports club land in Jalan Tun Sambanthan 1.
It was meant to provide a space for students from schools, colleges, universities, football associations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to use free of charge from 9am to 7pm daily.
On March 31,2017, the site was closed to make way for planned development on the sports club land.
The facilities were boarded up. Consequently, they are now run down.
Brickfields Rukun Tetangga (RT) chairman SKK Naidu was disappointed with the decision to relocate the court because Brickfields needed a playground and a football field for the children living in the township.
“Why relocate when there is a need for such a facility right here?” he asked, while confirming that Hasanah Foundation had notified the RT of the decision to relocate.
“Earlier, this neighbourhood lost a lot of its fields and open spaces to development projects, so the Cruyff Court programme was a godsend, ” he added.
Resident M. Viknendran said he could not believe that the foundation was not going to continue with the programme and questioned the reason for the relocation.
“Brickfields is unlike other townships in Kuala Lumpur.
“Despite having a lot of residential buildings, it does not have enough playgrounds or open spaces for football for children who live here, ” he said.
SMK (P) Methodist Kuala Lumpur sports teacher Sarasvathy Annandarajah called for the authorities to reconsider their decision to relocate the Cruyff Court from Brickfields.
“Brickfields is the perfect location for a Cruyff Court.
“It is a growing township that is badly in need of a designated space for children to play sports, ’’ she added.
Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) executive council member Christopher Raj echoed Sarasvathy’s sentiment.
“There is history and a legacy in Brickfields.
“The former DBKL sports field was a training ground for the Kuala Lumpur football team and many competitions, national and community levels, were held there.
“I really hope the decision-makers will listen to the pleas of the people living there, ” he said.
Brickfields stakeholders --- led by its RT committee along with the Local Agenda 21 (LA21), schools and NGOs --- made an appeal to Hasanah Foundation last December to reopen the court.
The Brickfields Cruyff Court programme was a hit among the community and became a main platform for disabled football athletes to train.
The Malaysian blind football team won a gold medal in the 8th Asean Para Games in 2015, beating Thailand.
National blind football coach Sunny Shalesh told StarMetro that after the court’s closure, the team had been looking for a place to train.
StarMetro visited the court site recently and found it in bad shape.
The path leading to the court was overgrown with shrubs.
The area was boarded up but the barriers were already falling apart.
The benches for spectators were rusty and some were disintegrating.