Thursday 27 June 2024, 12:15

FIFA President calls Malaysia’s new National Training Centre “a beacon” for football dreams

  • Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) holds ceremony to break ground on new National Training Centre in Putrajaya

  • Gianni Infantino says talented Malaysian youngsters “will all want to come [there] to fulfil their dream of playing football for their country”

  • FIFA Forward Development Programme and Malaysian government funding have driven the project

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has said Malaysia’s new National Training Centre will serve as “a beacon for the beautiful game” after ground was broken on the project in Putrajaya.

Led by the Football Association of Malaysia President & FIFA Council Member, Datuk Hamidin bin Mohd Amin, and in the presence of the country’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Hannah Yeoh Tseow Suan, and FIFA Regional Director Asia & Oceania Sanjeevan Balasingam, the ceremony marked the official start of a project that is the first of its kind in the south-east Asian country.

“Congratulations to all of you on this groundbreaking day. Today, as you take this first step towards building your National Training Centre, you also take a first and significant step forward for the Football Association of Malaysia and for football in your fantastic country,” said Mr Infantino in a video message played during the ceremony.

“I am happy to see that the FIFA Forward programme plays a major part in Malaysian football as this National Training Centre will be a beacon for the beautiful game in the country.

“And as an inspiration, it will also send out a message of hope and ambition to young footballers, boys and girls, across Malaysia – this is the place where they will all want to come to fulfil their dream of playing football for their country on the global stage.”

The new technical centre has been years in the making.

“Distinguished guests, this Groundbreaking Ceremony can be seen as a manifestation of the vision of the late Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah, who led FAM from 1984 to 2014, and the honourable Tan Sri Dr Aseh Che Mat, Chairman of the FAM Integrity Committee,” said current FAM President Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin. “When the late Sultan was the President of FAM, he aspired to establish an integrated administrative centre that housed the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF), and FAM in an effort to create a football hub in the Asian region.”

Supported by approximately USD 5.2 million from the FIFA Forward Development Programme, Phase 1 will see three full-size football pitches laid: one each of artificial, natural and hybrid turf. Floodlights will also be installed, a ball-catching fence erected and a rainwater harvest system established as part of the development of the approximately 12.987 acres play leased from the Malaysian government.

The national government has also contributed approximately USD 9.5 million to the initiative. This will add state-of-the-art aspects to the project, such as a protective roof on the artificial pitch, as well as a building comprising a gymnasium, multipurpose room, changing rooms and rehabilitation room.

“For FIFA it’s very important to have government cooperation working hand in hand with FIFA and our 211 member associations in order to develop football,” said Mr Balasingam, who has worked closely on the project alongside the FAM. “It’s perfect that in a country like Malaysia – we hope that there are other examples as well – where the government provides the land to the FA or the MA free of charge and the MA utilises FIFA Forward funds to build a centre, to build a new HQ, so this is a great partnership and we hope this continues in all our areas.” The technical centre will form the fulcrum of Malaysian football development, at all levels. “When you have a football city, a dedicated place for training and for football, that will attract many Malaysians to come. And it's important for the next generation,” stressed Mrs Yeoh, who was on-site to see the government’s dream become reality. “Children get inspired by watching. And so when they have a facility like this, and they see, oh, this can be the future for them, they will want to start playing football.” FIFA Forward funding is helping to improve football infrastructure across the globe.

“It is exactly this sort of elite centre that we want all 211 FIFA Member Associations to develop as part of FIFA’s Talent Development Scheme, to give the world’s most promising footballers of tomorrow the very best opportunity to make the most of their talent, regardless of where they come from,” said Mr Infantino referencing the FIFA initiative that aims to have 75 elite academies or technical centres in member associations around the world by 2027.

“It is also a fantastic example of what the FIFA Forward programme can do. Along with the support of the Malaysian government, it has enabled you to take your project off paper and literally put it onto the pitch. With the environmental aspects you have also managed to incorporate into what will be a state-of-the-art facility, you have set the benchmark for other member associations to follow.”

The ceremony took place a day before the third-round draw of the AFC Asian Qualifiers™ for the FIFA World Cup 2026™ in Malaysia’s nearby capital, Kuala Lumpur.