Soh Chin Aun, Wong Kam Fook, James Wong, Ong Kim Swee, Yap Wai Loon and Liew Kit Kong are just some of the names in the past that have contributed to Malaysian football at various levels and that is what FAM are seeking to have again after holding a FAM Chinese Football Grassroots Day on Saturday morning.
The event that was held at SJK (C) Lai Meng in Bukit Jalil was joined by kids from five other schools in SJK (C) Yuk Chai, SJK (C) Yak Chee, SJK (C) Han Ming, SJC (C) La Salle and SJK (C) Yoke name saw kids being put through their paces, supervised by grassroots coaches.
In a bid to revive the past with teams in the M-League filled with plenty of Chinese players like Chee Wan Hoe, Lee Kin Hong and Chan Kok Heng; FAM president Dato Hamidin Mohd Amin is urging parents to give the sport a chance in this new era of the professional game.
"In previous meetings with the Chinese Football Association, we always spoke about having more Chinese players back in the game so this program is one of many we have planned to achieve that. So FAM are here to meet personally with the parents and teachers to encourage them to take up the sport.
"At the state level we are also asking the association to do similar programs. We want to get more Chinese involved in the game as players. We want football to be inclusive and that means a more balanced composition among all races.
"We have to change the perception (that football is not to be made a career unlike other professional jobs) and if we can't get 100% changed, we hope to hit at least 50% to 60%," said Hamidin after the event.
While Chinese players in the professional game in Malaysia are hard to find, the same cannot be said in the coaching side. The two top coaching jobs at national levels are helmed by Chinese in Tan Cheng Hoe with the senior side and Ong Kim Swee with the Under-23 side, even Chiew Chun Yong is heading the futsal side of things.
Fresh from guiding the country to a massive win over Thailand last Saturday in the 2022 World Cup qualifier, Cheng Hoe who was given a rousing applause by the kids and parents at the event, is also supporting the stance made by FAM.
"This is a good event to develop the interest in football for the Chinese community. It has been a while that there's a lack of Chinese players in the national team and even in the league, there's only one or two players. Maybe the focus from the parents is on their academics and that is perhaps why there's a lack of Chinese presence in local football.
"In my time, I had to sneak out to play football with my neighbours and friends who stayed nearby, against my parents wishes. Nowadays there are more condominiums than fields available for the young kids to play football. But in the era of professional football, people can make a career out of the sport," said Cheng Hoe.
Brendan Gan, La'Vere Corbin-Ong and Dominic Tan are the only three Chinese players in the current Malaysia national team with goalkeeper Damien Lim part of the U23 side. Citing a big difference in the way that a career path in football is viewed in this decade compared to what Cheng Hoe experienced back in the 80s, Dominic is hopeful more will follow suit.
"I hope I can be an inspiration to the kids growing up and inspire them to achieve their goals whether in sports or studies. There's still many things that I want to achieve in the game but I'm happy to be here to share my experience to the kids.
"It all begins with passion. If you have the passion, you will make the sacrifices to be where you want to be. Growing up, it has always been my passion to be a footballer. Since young my parents know the path I chose for myself. They are very supportive even now," said Dominic after the event.
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