BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Selangor head coach B. Satiananthan has been left impressed by the recent successes of Malaysia junior teams at the Southeast Asian level.
While Malaysia U-18 recently finished runners up in the AFF U-18 Championship behind favourites Australia, the Malaysia U-15 side had one week earlier won the AFF U-15 Championship, beating hosts Thailand 2-1 in the final match.
In an interview with Goal on Tuesday, Satiananthan, who is also the president of Football Coaches Association Malaysia, praised the role played by the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) in revitalising youth development in the country.
All but two of the U-15 squad members in the recent tournament are NFDP trainees, while the U-17 side featured 10 trainees of the programme.
"Youth development in the country had gone down since the late 1980's, you don't see kids playing on neighbourhood pitches anymore. This is what happens when the economy improves; parents put a bigger emphasis on academic while physical education takes a backseat in schools.
"NFDP has definitely played a big role in youth football these days, but it cannot be on them alone. Youth defevelopment must also be undertaken by the [professional] clubs," opined the former Felda United boss.
He now wants to see the boys exposed to the various types of games played all over the world.
"They took awhile to settle down in the game against Australia, but once they started playing, they gave Australia a hard time. This team and their U-15 juniors have potential and must be exposed to the different 'brands' of football played. They need to see how it's played in Europe, South America, North America, and Africa
"They have to play against South American sides such as Argentina and Brazil, so they will be prepared for tournament settings," said Satiananthan.
When asked about the readiness of professional Malaysian clubs and sides in preparing youth players and providing them with a pathway towards the senior level, Satiananthan provided several takes.
"I don't think there are many state teams that are still not undertaking youth development. It's one of the requirements of club licensing after all, but what's important is the seriousness [of the implementation]. I know that we at Selangor are serious [about youth development], as well as JDT.
"And if we do sign any of these young players, we must ensure that they continue to receive high-intensity training, while making sure that we set a high standard for them and not give them special treatment
"But it must be emphasised that undergoing youth training is not like attending university; not everyone can graduate. In football, there are no lecturers that you can beg a passing grade from. The best players will go to the clubs that can meet their financial demands, while the rest will play in the Premier League. And even then the demands of the game is still high. They have to advance to the U-21 level, and then comes the hard part; the senior level, where these young players will have to catch up with players who have had a 10-year head start over them. Only the best will make it," he explained.
The former Malaysia head coach further underscored the difficulties faced by young footballers at the senior level, acknowledging that Malaysian coaches are forced to field established experienced players over their younger counterparts.
"Now everyone's calling on the coaches to take the risk by fielding more young players, when I cannot make a gamble when my team is not doing well. That's not going to happen when my job is at stake. Only special young players who can shine will get a chance.
"Take the example of Syahmi (Selangor and Malaysia right back Syahmi Safari). He's only 21 years old but he's already a regular starter. There are numerous young players with potential, but they must get regular football, and they must consider where they can get that. Clubs in turn need to provide them with high-intensity training, while not pampering them. Once they are pampered, that's it for them," stated Satiananthan.
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