Malaysian ministry to directly fund Under-20 team

K. Rajagopal's hard work in rebuilding Malaysia's Under-20 national team has paid dividends with the federal Sports Ministry (KBS) agreeing to finance the team for the next four years. The Football Association of Malaysia 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.

“We have finally put everything into place for us to take over the running of the Under-20 team,” sports minister Datuk Azalina Said Othman told Graig Nunis of the of the Malay Mail. “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.”

FAM general secretary Datuk Seri Dr Ibrahim Saad told Nunis 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 paying 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 wages. 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,” he said.