Cardiff City’s Malaysian owners are determined to forge strong links between the Bluebirds and the youngsters in their homeland.TERRY PHILLIPS looks at the ambitious Welsh-Asian project
CARDIFF City are reaching out to the children of Malaysia.
Chairman Dato Chan Tien Ghee and his fellow Malaysian investors are underlining their commitment to the Bluebirds through the 1 Malaysia Cardiff City project which will involve improving the lives of 30,000 youngsters through education and coaching.
“Personally, I am committed to grassroots football in Malaysia.
“That has grown since I came to Cardiff and have seen the outstanding work by our Community Foundation and Youth Academy people in South Wales.
“We must reach out to children, not only in football technique, but also in character building,” says Dato Chan, who is nicknamed ‘TG’ at Cardiff City Stadium.
“I have watched our club’s Down’s Syndrome team, who are champions of Great Britain, and we have a deaf team.
“The next era is football for the blind – and a wheelchair squad.
“This work goes beyond normal football and normal coaching programmes, both in Wales and Malaysia. I believe our government in Malaysia are quite impressed with what we are doing.
“The community work Cardiff City are doing in the UK is now growing in Malaysia. Cardiff will always be in the hearts of Malaysians because this club took the trouble to go out there and help in all sorts of ways.
“A major factor for me is that nobody is left out.
“Cardiff City are proud to have won a Football League Community Award and the Family Stand of the Year award in Barcelona, which is a great credit to Wales and this city. This club has to be about more than the first team alone – and we are putting a lot of time and effort into grassroots football.”
The Bluebirds have signed a memorandum of understanding with Felda (the Malaysia government-backed Federal Land Development Authority) to develop grassroots football. In terms of financial strength, Felda are second only to Malaysia’s petroleum company.
Felda director general Dato Dzulkifi Abdul Wahab spent two days in South Wales visiting Cardiff City Stadium, the club’s House of Sport and Vale training ground, where he met manager Malky Mackay and the players.
“We have over 100,000 families in our area and some could be rising stars of the future,” said Dato Dzulkifi. “This project, which involves a mix of education and football, covers children aged between six and 16 years old.
“My trip to Cardiff was to witness first-hand how well the coaches work, along with the excellent facilities. Our aim is to integrate these methods with the youth in Malaysia in terms of how the children spend their time, how they study, diet and stay healthy.”
Felda are the largest land owners in Malaysia – their work involves striving to eradicate community poverty – and the agreement with Cardiff is aimed at helping all children regardless of their background.
“Many football clubs have community programmes, but none have gone out to Malaysia to have an input into coaching and education,” says TG. “We are reaching out beyond the cities – and there is a lot of talent out there in rural areas.
“Pele was found in the back streets of his own country – and look what he achieved. Who knows? We may find a gem in the future, but we want to do far more than find one, maybe two, players who can make the grade.
“We have already involved a couple of thousand children and this will continue to grow. Our football club is 100 years old. People here are passionate. The children of Malaysia are passionate about football.
“It’s time for Malaysia and Cardiff to get together. We have full-time staff working in Malaysia – and we will have to triple those numbers.
“Cardiff City have been proud to work in local communities. Football is an extra powerful tool when it comes to youth development.
“We believe this starts at the age of five.
“We want to reach Malaysian children from all walks of life. The target is letting children enjoy themselves.
“If we see a good player out there all well and good. If not, that’s okay and we will still achieve an awful lot.”
There has been talk of a Cardiff City first-team tour to Malaysia – and TG says that will happen.
This 1 Malaysia Cardiff City project will have an impact on that – and that includes providing facilities for the youth schemes in Malaysia.
“We are in talks to take over certain stadiums which will have the Cardiff brand on them,” says TG. “They will help with the grassroots football, while the pitch standards and facilities must be as good as Cardiff City Stadium.
“Our main concern is to welcome Cardiff City players in Malaysia to play and train on pitches where the pitches are good and help to ensure any risk of injuries is minimal.
“Malky Mackay and I are agreed that when the time is right, and the right facilities are in place, Cardiff City’s squad will come to Malaysia.
“This whole project, though, goes far beyond pre-season, far beyond going out to do a community football stint. Premier League teams have visited Malaysia for exhibition matches, but what Cardiff City are doing goes far beyond that.
“We are going to rural areas in Malaysia and taking football and education to kids everywhere. It’s different – and a project we will nurture and help grow over the next few years.” – http://www.walesonline.co.uk