KUALA LUMPUR: The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) has temporarily halted the player naturalisation programme at the national level, says Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports Adam Adli Abdul Halim (pix).

He said this was to direct efforts to improve the country’s overall football performance by focusing on the development of local players.

Towards this end, he said that the ministry, through the National Sports Council (MSN), had been collaborating with the FAM to establish a national football development programme since 2014, focusing on players aged seven to 17.

“This programme is a long-term strategic plan that has outlined nine initiatives to produce a new generation of players who can compete not only at the Asian level, but also at the World Cup.

“It currently has 16,228 players, 767 coaches from 63 Akademi Tunas, 63 district training centres, 14 state sports (centres) and a Malaysian sports school,“ he said in a question and answer session at the Dewan Rakyat today.

He said this in response to the original question from Jimmy Puah Wee Tse (PH-Tebrau) who wanted to know the number of players granted citizenship to represent Malaysia in the recent Asian Cup and FAM’s efforts to promote the sport, including whether to continue the naturalisation policy.

However, Adam Adli said football clubs under the auspices of the Malaysian Football League (MFL) could still continue with the programme, following the steps and procedures set by the government.

Regarding the participation of naturalised players in the Asian Cup in Doha, Qatar, he said four naturalised players and seven mixed-heritage players with Malaysian family ties had been listed in the national team.

In response to an additional question from Afnan Hamimi Taib Azamudden (PN-Alor Setar) regarding the government’s efforts to ensure that unfortunate incidents like the one that happened to Terengganu Silat exponent Wan Muhammad Haikal Wan Hussin recently did not recur, he said KBS would ensure that every Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) related to high-risk sports would be further tightened.

“We have so far not put the blame (incident) on any party, but from the point of view of ensuring that this kind of incident does not happen again, we must make sure that the organisers comply with the SOP.

“This needs to be coordinated with the Sports Commissioner and we have also launched the Safe Sports Code which includes the responsibility of the organisers in ensuring compliance with the SOP, providing a safe space and reducing certain risks,“ he said.

While participating in the Malaysia Games (SUKMA) pre-selection competition in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, yesterday, Wan Muhammad Haikal was reported to have lost consciousness after collapsing due to a kick from an opponent before being confirmed dead while receiving treatment at the Tuanku Ja’afar Hospital in Seremban. -Bernama

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