Building on its eight-year track record, Allianz Malaysia Bhd launched the ninth edition of its global football grassroots programme at UM Arena Stadium in Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.
The Allianz Junior Football Championship (AJFC), previously known as the Allianz Junior Football Camp, aims to give young footballers a taste of professional football life.
AJFC will continue to provide a platform for teams to compete for honours with titles and cash prizes up for grabs through the league format championship.
But the road ahead for the thousands of young footballers vying for individual honours and a shot to train in Germany will not be easy as they will need to stand out among a sea of hungry talents that have been raising the bar year-on-year.
The league format championship will cover six regions and is set to kick-off with the Central and Southern regions on Feb 29.
The Northern and East Coast regions will start their campaign on March 7 while the Sabah and Sarawak legs will be on March 14.
Each region will see 16 teams in the fray and each team will field 18 players for the 11-a-side 70-minute matches.
The five-week league will see teams play their respective regional final matches throughout April before a Grand Final on July 4 at the MPSJ Arena in Subang Jaya is held among regions that will be represented only by the top 18 players selected by experienced coaches.
To help in the selection, this year’s panel will be headed by K. Gunalan, who is also PJ City FC’s President’s Cup head coach.
Gunalan is also a former national defender who won many titles with Selangor.
He will be joined by his assistants Rudie Ramli and Mohd Nizaruddin Yusof, both former national players as well.
A further selection of 14 players will be hand-picked by the panel for a five-day Allianz Explorer Camp (AEC) Asia training stint in Manila, the Philippines, where they will train alongside their counterparts before two of the most promising players are chosen for the AEC Global in Munich in August.
Allianz Malaysia chief executive officer Zakri Khir said over the years, the programme has seen more than 9,000 budding footballers from all over the country showcase their talent.
“It is very humbling for me to share that some of these players currently play in the President’s Cup and youth teams and have also played for Harimau Muda C, which was disbanded in 2015.
“The AEC campaigns in Asia and Munich offer our players the chance to experience things off the pitch and outside of football and to embrace the importance of freedom and adventure,” he said, adding that the programme also aimed to help young footballers by giving them knowledge of financial literacy and media coaching to build up their self-confidence.
“Football is also important to reflect the multiculturalism of Malaysia and we want to see all players in AJFC regardless of race, to represent the country when they go abroad.”
The name change of the programme also marks the insurer’s renewed dedication to the youth engagement programme, which began in 2012 with just 450 footballers compared to over 1,600 last year.
Allianz Malaysia chief market management officer Amy Loke said while registration for all six regions started on Jan 12 and ends on Jan 24, all 16 spots for the Central Region filled up within a record 18 minutes with slots for other regions going fast.
“This year will also see 14 players instead of the usual 10 heading to Manila for the AEC campaign,” she said.
Gunalan said the panel will be looking for players that have a high level of skills as well as strong mental ability along with high self-confidence to represent AJFC Malaysia in Munich.
“The league format will be a good opportunity for us to see the players demonstrate their technical and tactical abilities in the matches as well as their attitudes.
“My job will not be easy because players nowadays are getting better and better and it will be a challenge to separate the best from the rest,” said Gunalan.
Did you find this article insightful?