YOUTH development is essential to ensure the continuity of a sport. In football, youth development is key to strengthening a side in the near future.
Take current European champions Bayern Munchen for example. Some of the first-team squad like Thomas Mueller, Diego Contento, Toni Kroos and David Alaba came from the famed Bayern Munchen youth academy and helped the German club to win three trophies.
Behind these players, there will always be a coach who supports and trains them. Is it surprising to see that a Malaysian contributed greatly to the success?
Former Malaysian international Lim Teong Kim used to be the assistant coach of the Bayern Munchen U-19 youth side and trained these players when they were young.
Now, Teong Kim has just been appointed as the Project Director of National Football Development Programme (NFDP) by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
Teong Kim, 50, will begin work in November in a bid to help Malaysia qualify for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 2019.
Having played for Hertha Berlin in Germany in the 80s, Teong Kim will be tasked to plan and conduct programmes to enhance youth development for football in Malaysia.
In an e-mail interview with the man himself, he explained what NFDP needs to do to enhance the standard of football in Malaysia and put the country in a respectable position in Asia.
"NFDP headed by Lim Kim Chon and his coaching staff have done a great deal of basic fundamental youth development work in the country," he said.
According to Teong Kim, NFDP has 120 kids from the age of seven to 12 in 14 centres, training three times a week and playing one or two matches during the weekend
"The kids took part in two tournaments in Croatia and Saitama, Japan this year and they did very well," said Teong Kim.
Teong Kim also shared his experience working with Bayern Munchen youth side. He said the youth development in Europe is second to none.
"I had the opportunity to work with players who are currently playing for the best clubs in Europe.
"I have been to most of the training centres of top European clubs and these clubs invest a lot in infrastructure and youth development. Their training facilities are top class," he said
After experiencing all these, Teong Kim dreams of seeing these kind of facilities in our country.
"People must realise that facilities are working tools for footballers. Imagine if a heart surgeon does a surgery without his tools. Can you imagine what will happen to the patient?" said Teong Kim
When asked about the difference in standard between footballers in Malaysia and Europe, he said young Malaysian players are no different from European players in terms of ability.
"In fact our young players have better ability because of their body structure and they have better agility too.
"The reason why Europeans succeed is because they play more games and train more in one season."
Teong Kim certainly has a master plan for Malaysian football.
To succeed, he sees the need for proper planning in player development especially in terms of training, coaching and competition.
"I am convinced we will be as good as the Japanese and Koreans, but we have to be patient."
"We need players with good social values, character, leadership, winning mentality, mental strength, fast technique, tactical awareness and good physical fitness.
"These are qualities that will separate the wheat from the chaff," said Teong Kim.
He even asked me why I didn't ask about coaches for youth development but he was kind of enough to give his take on it.
"Coaches must have good knowledge about training, preparation and managing young players. Many times, I have seen coaches during games shouting and condemning the players when they make a mistake.
"These questions linger in my mind when such an incident happens. How is the player going to be confident? Learn how to play without fear? Learn how to take their own initiative? Now you know why we don’t have players who can think and act independently," said Teong Kim
He also said it's a different ball game when it comes to coaching youth players.
"You can use all the wrong training methods with adults in training and yet they would not have any problem but that's not the case with kids/youth.
"When working with youth players, you should not train them like an adult but you should respect them like an adult," said the former Melaka player.
In order to achieve his plans of having streamlined competitions, good infrastructure and competent youth coaches, Teong Kim said he has the support of the ministry which is led by Khairy Jamaluddin.
"We all have one thing in common - we want our national team to do well.
"But state FAs’ must take more responsibility. They have to invest in infrastructure, have a structure in football and improve youth development in their states in order for us to achieve success in the near future," he said.
He said there is no point quarrelling on who is right and who is wrong. The standard of the national team is the best indicator to show what our football system is like in our country.
"I propose that all football parties concerned should meet, discuss and find a solution for this problem.
He concluded by saying, "Let’s work together! That's the only way to achieve our dream."
The views expressed are entirely the writer's own