Two young Malaysian footballers will be heading to Britain on Nov 21 after coming out tops in the football talent search programme, Million Dollar Feet (MDF) Grand Finals, at the St.Joseph’s Institution International School last weekend.
The two 16-year-olds – Muhammad Diniz Irwan and Wan Muhammad Irfan Wan Nizar – were selected after gruelling trials among the 14 finalists.
The winners will attend a special trial with scouts from European clubs.
“When I wanted to start playing football my father told me to be a great player, you must play in Europe,” said Diniz. “I think this is my best chance to prove that I can play in Europe.”
This will be Wan Irfan’s second stint in Europe. “Last year, I was selected to train at the Valencia Football Academy in Spain which was quite challenging. I feel blessed to be chosen among thousands,” he said.
Diniz (fourth from left) and Wan Irfan (fourth from right) after receiving their grand prize. With them are McMahon (right), De Kretser (second right), Kamalanathan (third right) and representatives of sponsors and MDF officials.
Million Dollar Feet is an initiative to find the best Malaysian football star and was started last year by MDF founder and director of football Peter de Kretser and Liverpool legend and MDF head coach Steve McMahon.
Throughout this second season of MDF, more than 10,000 hopefuls collectively attended five tryout sessions held in five states – Penang, Kelantan, Sarawak, Johor and Kuala Lumpur. Two finalists were selected from each state to participate in the Grand Finals.
“It was certainly a great run and this time around, we witnessed some top-notch talent among these participants, worthy of shining in the international arena, given the right platform and guidance,” said McMahon.
Kamalanathan (left) receiving an exclusive signed England jersey from McMahon.
“Ability alone won’t get you a scholarship. It is about being able to cope with pressure from football every day. If you are fearful of failure, I guarantee you will fail. So take the fear out of it and give it your best shot,” encouraged McMahon before the finals began.
Before the finalists took to the field, a ball skills stylist demonstration was staged where ball balancing, step overs and reverse step overs were shown.
A celebrity match was also held before the trials began between celebrities, guests, coaches and parents.
During the trials, the finalists were given a number of drills to test various skills of ball trapping, passing and dribbling. In the end the players were divided into two sides under close supervision of the coaches.
McMahon briefing the finalists as they begin their final test.
McMahon, once the dynamo of the Reds’ engine-room, was in similar mode, moving from end to end during the drills, barking instructions and urging the players to get their technique right.
The Million Dollar Feet programme was fully supported by the Education Ministry as seen by the presence of Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan, at the prize-giving ceremony.
“Last year’s winners Mohd Yusri Haziq Idris, 15, and Adam Roshan, 14, are now studying at one of Europe’s top football academies, Brooke House (College Football Academy) in Leicester, England,” he said.
“Education on and off the field is very important for all Malaysians.
“Education and sport have no barriers. It is a lifelong learning experience and I hope students will embrace these values to be successful in life.”
Million Dollar Feet is based on the popular Disney film Million Dollar Arm. It is a programme not just to find talent but to expose them to the world, to offer them the infrastructure and coaching to succeed at the highest level.
Diniz (left) and Wan Irfan (centre) with one of MDF’s assistant coaches
“This is what MDF is all about – going right down to the grassroots to find the best talents in the game. They’re out there, just waiting to shine. And we’re here to find it,” said de Kretser,
He added that already, there are talks and plans to take MDF into other Asian countries, as representation from these nations within the big European leagues is scarce.
“Hopefully, one day, the next Lionel Messi or Christiano Ronaldo will come from this part of the world. That’s what we’re trying to do here at MDF,” said de Kretser.
The programme was supported by presenting sponsor Baba’s with the support of the Education Ministry and the British High Commission, Kuala Lumpur. Sponsors include Brickfields Asia College, Etihad Airways, TGV Cinemas, 100 Plus, National Kidney Foundation, Anita, LAC Printing and St Joseph’s Institution International School.