Grooming kids for the big stage

One of the Bintang Biru coaches giving some pointers to a group of 12-year-olds during a training session at the SK St Mark football field. Above is the academy chief Sundram.

One of the Bintang Biru coaches giving some pointers to a group of 12-year-olds during a training session at the SK St Mark football field. Above is the academy chief Sundram.

THE Bintang Biru Assumption FC football academy can proudly boast of having its alumni in every national age-group football squad, including the senior Harimau Malaya.

For over 40 years, the Butterworth-based club’s football development programme at grassroots level has continued to supply quality players to the sports schools, states, and national teams.

Among the Bintang Biru graduates who have featured for Malaysia and currently playing in the Super League are S. Kumaahran (Penang), S. Veenod (Selangor) and Syafiq Ahmad (Kedah). Mohd Jafri Chew is a key member of the national Under-22 and Under-19 teams while his Penang team-mate Faizat Ghazli featured for the national Under-23 side at the SEA Games 2015.

“We are proud to have our players representing Malaysia at different levels. We are a feeder club. We have 12 players with the Bukit Jalil Sports School, and each year on average, 15 Bintang Biru trainees are accepted into Form One at the Mutiara Impian Sports School,” said academy chairman S. Sundram.

Most of the trainees at Bintang Biru are from all over Penang and the nearby towns in Kedah, especially Sungai Petani and Kulim.

Sundram, who started the development programme over four decades ago, cited the full commitment of the coaches as the secret to Bintang Biru’s continuous success.

“We have nine coaches training the children on weekends at the SK St Mark football field in Butterworth, Penang. All of them work with the players throughout the training sessions.

“I began the academy to create a starting point to impart basic football knowledge to the youngsters. The Bintang Biru development programme is different from other academies because we give importance to playing in tournaments. Our youngsters take part in age-group competitions because we want them to learn from real match situations.

“The kids start learning basic skills from the age of six. By the time they are 10-12, they should be good enough to represent their schools. From the school-level, they can progress to play for the state, sports schools or national age-group teams.”

Among the Bintang Biru success stories is the 14-year-old Sikh Izhan Nazrel, who is the first choice goalkeeper for the Malaysia Under-14 team helmed by Lim Teong Kim.

“I started training at the St Mark field since I was six years old. This place is where I started to learn the basics in football,” said Sikh Izhan, who makes it a point to join his former clubmates in training when he returns from Kuala Lumpur for the holidays.

Former Selangor player Abdul Moin Rahim, who now resides in Selama, Perak, drives for almost two hours twice a week just to send his eight-year-old son Abdul Mukhriz Moin to training in Butterworth.

“As a parent who is a former footballer, I did my homework before deciding the Bintang Biru Assumption academy is the best place for my son to learn the football basics. The long distance travelling is not a problem for me as I feel the coaches here are committed and my son is in good hands,” said Abdul Moin.

Among the young trainees is eight-year-old Nur Allya Marissa from Sungai Petani.

Nur Allya is one of several girls at the academy, and has to undergo the same training routine as boys her age.

“I love football very much. I look forward to attend training every week. I like to watch Kedah (state team) matches in the stadium with my family, and my favourite player is Baddrol (Bakhtiar),” said Nur Allya, who is a natural leader on the pitch and leads the Under-8 group’s warmup sessions in training.

The Bintang Biru Assumption football academy will be having a two-day free football clinic on Oct 15-16 at the SK St Mark football field in Butterworth.

Local football legends Shukor Salleh and Mohamad Bakar will be at the clinic, which is also open to non-Bintang Biru players between seven and 16 years old.

The session on Oct 15 begins at 4pm, and 8.30am on Oct 16.