Football coach Shazwan finds big joy in Little League after leaving high-paying job in China

Dedicated coach: Shazwan Wong hugs one of his boys during training.

IMAGINE leaving a high-stakes job back in Shanghai to focus on building the next generation of footballers from scratch at home.

Shazwan Wong, who was coaching kids in China, decided to return to Malaysia in 2009 to train the children in the Little League Soccer academies.

Fast forward to 2024 and he is now general manager of the organisation, opening up branches in Mont Kiara, Melawati, Setia Alam and Kepong.

Shazwan had his work cut out but the long journey has been a fruitful one as he has seen some of his charges moving on to better football academies in the country, especially Akademi Mokhtar Dahari (AMD) and Johor Darul Ta’zim.

Proud moment: Shazwan Wong posing for a photograph together with one of his academy boys.Proud moment: Shazwan Wong posing for a photograph together with one of his academy boys.

“There were some doubts when I returned as I was leaving a job that paid me well. I also had to start all over, and I started a few new projects but based on what we have now, it was the right decision for me to return to Malaysia,” he said.

“We have four clubs now catering for the youths. Our focus was on areas like Setia Alam, Melawati and Kepong as we didn’t want kids to travel a distance for training sessions.

“After years of being part of the grassroots, I can say that we have some boys who are now playing in the Malaysian League. Recently, we had one of our boys who made it to AMD and even went on to captain their team.

“There are also kids who are part of sports schools. Our role as a development club is to push these kids to the next level. So to see the boys taking the next step is satisfying.”

Shazwan said the nation is indeed in need of grassroots clubs to develop future stars of the game and he is heartened to see the scene thriving.

He said the increased number of youth football clubs would only give more exposure for youngsters to truly immerse themselves in the sport.

“The scene is indeed thriving. In the past, clubs used to operate during weekends but now we see clubs providing weekday training, including ours.

“For us, the training frequency is very important. There are many youth leagues and competitions around, which means we can get more matches.

“The past two years, our Under-12 team played a total of 80 matches, which means there is exposure not just for them but also scouts around to monitor them.”

But grassroots football does have its drawbacks too, which Shazwan was candid about.

Young talents: Some of the kids from the Little League Soccer in action.Young talents: Some of the kids from the Little League Soccer in action.

He said different clubs will have different problems ranging from finding a venue to train, to getting good coaches, equipment and dealing with financial constraints.

And the toughest part is managing the expectations of parents.

“We still see a lot of sideline coaching from parents, where they try to instruct their kids instead of letting the coaches do their jobs.

“There are also over-excited parents who get into heated arguments during youth games that have resulted in brawls.

“These are the issues where I think the FAM (Football Association of Malaysia) need to come out and educate the coaches and parents on the code of conduct for youth games.

“There are also cases of parents lying about their kids’ ages.’’

But Shazwan is not deterred by these issues as he loves the job, adding that he does not intend to be part of a professional football set-up because he’s passionate about his goal of developing more young talents.

“The job requires much dedication, and we have to be disciplined, punctual and honest for the parents to trust us to coach their kids.

‘’We’re not only developing them to be quality footballers, we also teach them important values in life.

“It is my wish to see more clubs, more coaches and more leagues all working towards a single goal – which is to develop more players who will go on to form a strong national team.”

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Shazwan Wong , football , coach


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