BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Despite the earlier optimism that a Malaysian FA (FAM)-run nationwide U-16/17 competition can start this year or in 2020, it seems that the plan has been shelved for the time being.
In an interview with Goal in late August 2018, FAM secretary-general Stuart Ramalingam revealed that the association was looking into starting an U-16/17 league run in the same manner as its President Cup and Youth Cup; which are participated by Malaysian clubs' U-21 and U-19 teams respectively.
But when met last Sunday after a Youth Cup match, Stuart told Goal that for the time being, national competition at this age level will continue to be organised by Malaysia's Ministry of Education (KPM); through the KPM League.
Unlike the aforementioned FAM's two youth leagues which are competed mainly by Malaysian clubs' youth teams, the KPM League has been contested by Malaysian sports schools at two age levels; U-17 and U-14. However, a number of these sports schools also act as unofficial academies to the clubs.
Stuart also disclosed that several professional clubs' junior teams will also take part in this year's competition.
"The discussions with KPM are ongoing and in the final stages, we want to get the sports schools, as well as the Super League and Premier League teams involved [in this year's national competition]. The registration process was closed last week I believe, and next week a meeting will be held with the schools and the junior teams. KPM has been very supportive of the idea of professional clubs' junior teams' participation, as well as that of other new teams. It should kick off this April.
"The league is organised by KPM, and at the moment we are utilising the already-established models, as it is a financially-tough year for a lot of organisations. Creating a new league for the sake of creating a new league in this climate isn't the best of ideas, so we have opted for the model that is driven by KPM, with FAM as the supporter. We provide coaching, education, licensing and refereeing; the technical backing.
"Hopefully in the coming years we can improve it further; from a schools-based competition, to a club-based league. Regardless of the main driver in the future, what's important is how we grow the asset together. Youth football has to be done with KPM, we should collaborate. We (FAM) will never be the sole driver in this; this year KPM is leading the ship, but in the future we hope that FAM can play a bigger role, which is something KPM would like to see too, as running a league is a huge operational burden to them," explained Stuart.
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