Credit goes to coaches K. Rajagobal, Tan Cheng Hoe and Fauzi Mukhlas and the other support staff for the GOLD medal triumph at the SEA Games.

There is no doubt that the present FAM administration will be trying to claim all the credit. But the truth is there for all to see as archives do not lie. Just read the stories written by creditable journalist in 2006 when the youngsters were nurtured, with FAM taking the bold step to let the government play a role, and the Ministry of Youth 7 Sports having faith in the ability of the youngsters.

An MOU was signed between FAM, represented by Dato Seri Dr. Ibrahim Saad, the then General Secretary, Rosli Hussein, the then Asst General Secretary and NSC who were represented by Head of International Preparation Division Arrifin Ghani and Director General Dato. Dr. Ramlan Abdul Aziz.

The goverment via NSC agreed to fund the team to the tune of RM3 million per year with a target to win the gold medal in the 2009 Sea Games, though it must be said that some in FAM doubted this vision.

Several meetings were held between the then Sports Commissioner Tan Sri Elyas Omar, KSU Datuk Nik Mahmud, Dato Zolkples Embong who was at that time the Director of Administration of NSC, Arrifin, YB Ghazali (not Yang Berhormat) as well as Dato Ibrahim, Rosli, ER Subramaniam.

The end result was the MOU binding the government support for the team and after Dato Zolkples took over as DG of NSC he honoured the MOU after having held an eyeball to eyeball meeting with Khairy Jamaluddin in January 2008.

After that it was decided Harimau Muda as the team was to be called, play in the M-League and over the years it was due to something started in 2006, of which people like Dato Ibrahim, Rosli, Dato Ramlan, Dato Zolkples, Arrifin, Tan Sri Elyas and Datuk Nik who were key to this team.

And not forgetting Dato Seri Tony Fernandes, who through Kuhan Foo arranged the team’s training at Carrington, the all famous Manchester United training ground.

Below are just two stories that lend credibility to this disclosure….

THE FA of Malaysia (FAM) has endorsed the Government’s decision to adopt the National Under-20 squad and will work closely with the National

Sports Council (NSC) to ensure its success.

Towards this end, FAM has formed a Working Committee to streamline and establish clear demarcation of functions and responsibilities.

This, said FAM deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, was necessary to ensure there are no disputes and Fifa guidelines are adhered


Although Tengku Abdullah did not elaborate, Fifa guidelines on non-interference by governments in national football associations are clearly spelt out.

“FAM welcomes the Government’s decision to adopt the national Under-20 team.

“On our part, we will collaborate very closely with the NSC to ensure this team gets the best,” said Tengku Abdullah after FAM’s council meeting in Kuantan.

“A Working Committee has been formed to establish clear roles and functions so as to avoid disputes.

“At the same time, it will ensure that Fifa guidelines are followed.

“Both parties will work very closely in the team’s preparations, be they tactical, technical, coaching, nutrition, friendly matches and tournaments, both local and overseas.

“This team – comprising mostly under 18 players – have great potential and represent our hope for the future,” he added.

A gigantic effort, said Tengku Abdullah, was needed to restore the country’s football pride and bring back the glory days.

As FAM cannot do it alone, the Government’s decision to adopt the national team is timely and most welcome, he added.

Tengku Abdullah said over the years, FAM had invested some RM4 million annually on the various national teams’ preparations and now part of its

financial burden will be reduced.

According to Tengku Abdullah, the players will come under the payroll of the National Sports Council as part of the AsiaComm programme.

“However, the players will be all be allowed to play for their respective States but the focus would be the team’s preparations for the Asian Youth Cup finals in Kolkata for which Malaysia have qualified on merit.”

FAM will be represented in the Working Committee by Tengku Abdullah,FAM general secretary Datuk Seri Dr. Ibrahim Saad and Datuk Redzuan Sheikh Ahmad, while the NSC will represent the Government.

K. RAJAGOPAL’S hard work in building a team worthy of bringing pride back

to Malaysian soccer has paid dividends with the Sports Ministry (KBS) agreeing to finance the national Under-20 for the next four years.

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) agreed to hand over the

running of the team to KBS but will have some input on the way the team is run.

The Under-20 team will compete in the Asian Youth Tournament in Kolkatta, India,in October – the first time in 28 years that they will compete as qualifiers.

Malaysia played in the 2004 tournament as hosts and the last time they made

the cut was in Dhaka in 1978.

“We have finally put everything into place for us to take over the running of

the Under-20 team,” said Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Said Othman.

“We will bankroll their trips, pay their wages and look after their well being. In return, the players will have to sign contracts with AsiaComm.

“This doesn’t mean the door is closed to other players. We will keep an eye

on their progress and FAM can suggest new players they feel will

strengthen the team.”

Rajagopal has lined up a series of playing tours for the team with the prestigious Copa B.H. de Futebol Junior tournament in Minas Gerais, Brazil from July 12-30 topping the list.

Admittance to the prestigious tournament, which is the top competition

for Under 20 teams in Brazil, is by invitation and four international sides will square off against more than 10 local teams. Among the Brazilian clubs who will participate are Corinthians, Sao Paulo, Flamengo, Fluminense, Santos and Gremio.

Trips to Iran, United Arab Emirates (UAE), China and Slovakia are also

in the pipeline while South Korea and Japan are expected to be invited to Kuala Lumpur to provide the team invaluable test matches ahead of the

Kolkatta assignment.

There could even be the possibility of the Under-20 outfit competing alongside the senior team in the Merdeka Tournament sometime in August.

Among the players in the team are skipper Mohd Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, Mohd Zaquan Adha Abdula Radzak (Negri Sembilan), Selangor’s Safiq

Rahim, Kedah’s Sabre Mat Abu and Kelantan goalkeeper Amini Ahmad Tabarani.

Meanwhile, FAM general secretary Datuk Seri Dr Ibrahim Saad said the players will be based in Kuala Lumpur but they will be allowed to turn

out for their home states in the Malaysian league.

“We have already spoken to the players about the situation and all of them have agreed to sign contracts with AsiaComm,” he said.

“I know some of the older players may be able to earn more than the RM2,500 AsiaComm are playing and we are looking at ways to help them.

“However, since the majority of them are pre-university students with some even still in secondary school, there should not be a question about


“As nearly all of them are products of the Bukit Jalil Sports School,we also don’t have to pay compensation to the State FAs.”

He added the players will only be allowed to play for their home states if the matches do not clash with Rajagopal’s plans.

“Obviously, if the boys are overseas or are preparing for a tournament,they would not be released,” said Ibrahim.

KBS will also look into hiring more coaches for the team but Rajagopal’s job as head coach looks secure.