A Wark in the clouds – Stuart finds great joy in grassroots coaching


Undying passion: Former Felda United player Stuart Wark in action for NPNG Damansara in the Selangor Champions League. He still plays at the semi-pro level. — Instagram

FOOTBALLER Stuart Wark made his professional debut in 2012 in the Malaysian League with a huge ambition but he left the scene dejected after a painful experience in his last four-year stint from 2018-2022.

Stuart, who is of Malaysian-Scottish heritage, said he had enough of unpaid salaries and shoddy management.

But the decision to leave something that he loved very deeply has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

The 34-year-old chose to dabble in grassroots coaching and has been proving to be a gem of a coach with Kuala Lumpur Youth Soccer (KLYS) in Ampang.

“I came to a point when I realised that I can’t rely on playing pro football anymore. I felt like it was time to take matters into my own hands and earn an honest living,” said Stuart.

“I was motivated to make a leap into a different sphere... and coaching seemed to fit the bill.

He, however, has learnt from his rollercoaster pro journey.

Even though he won the Premier League with Felda United in 2018, the team were disbanded in 2020 and in 2019 due to salary issues.

He joined Terengganu in 2020 but was not fully utilised and it saw him moving to Sarawak United in 2021. But the club were in a sorry state too as they were plagued with financial issues. In fact, they still owe Stuart three months of his salary.

In a daring move, he left to join Thai League Two club Kasetsart in mid 2022 and returned to Malaysia in April 2023, with the hope of joining a new club but it did not happen.

“I spoke to an agent when I returned. He had previously tried to take me to Perak, where my mother is from,” he said.

“I waited but there were no calls. I was in Ipoh on June 1, 2023, and was told that a contract would be offered, but I was not given one.’’

That’s when he switched roles and found love in guiding youngsters.

Stuart said the guidance from Luis Pablo Pozzuto, who is the director of KLYS, has been immense in his growth as a grassroots coach and continues to learn more from the Argentinian.

“Coach Luis is in a different class, but he has been a great help. I asked him about coaching, took me on board straight away and I’ve been there for a year now.

“The money is not as good as the football money but it feels more rewarding.”

Besides the youths, he has also been sharing his knowledge and harsh lessons learned as a pro with the amateur and semi-professional players through another platform – Tekkers Club.

He partners other former professional players Mathias Mansor and Ranieal Rozhan, who founded the club.

They provide individual and team training sessions for social league players.

Stuart said people were beginning to see value in private sessions, which would continue to grow in the future.

“We have a few kids who are part of the NFDP programme but the majority are social league players. We had some boys from Selangor and Perak too,” he said.

“They just want to get better at their level. They pay RM30-RM40 to play a game, but it is not much fun for them if they are getting there and hardly touching the ball. It is nice to see the switch, people seeing the value in private sessions.”

But coaching people who are not part of professional set-ups can be frustrating but seeing the improvements gives Stuart great pleasure.

“Amateurs and kids find it hard to grasp the drills immediately, which can be frustrating in the beginning. But when you see the little improvements... that joy has to be the best feeling as a coach.

“When you see them scoring a goal or getting the man of the match award, it feels rewarding.”

Stuart did play for NPNG Damansara in the Selangor Champions League last year and hopes to do so again this season.

“I still play football at the semi-pro level. It was a great feeling to play again.”

Will Stuart move up into professional coaching?

“I want to get my coaching badges at the end of the year but I am not sure if I want to go towards the professional side. I enjoy the grassroots. There is too much pressure in the professional game and a lack of security as well.”

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