Dog tired. Those two words pretty much sum up how we felt after spending a whole morning in Stadium Merdeka. The girls were eager to have a shot at Kem Bola, a community project to give opportunity to talented young players a chance to experience, first hand, professional football training at a renowned international football club in Europe.
This programme is organized by Astro Kasih in collaboration with 1MCC and is open to all boys and girls aged from 10 to 12 years old.
Despite knowing that only 16 boys and 16 girls will be selected, my girls begged and charmed their way into coaxing us to take them for the try outs. Well, who doesn’t want a paid training in Europe and a chance to experience life in a cold country. It would be everything they have seen in their favourite movies.
The training location was Stadium Merdeka, right smack in the middle of KL town. A cursed city where traffic is a bitch at any time of the day. My driver, my faithful husband was not happy to be caught up in the same jam he faces daily on his commute to work. So getting to the stadium was already an adventure and we have been up since 5.30 am.
Finally we made it in the nick of time. This was our first experience in Staium Merdeka, a place that has borne many Malaysian football legends like Mokhtar Dahari, Santokh Singh, R Arumugam and Soh Chin Aun. Flash backs of a recent movie, Ola Bola made this experience even more sweeter. The girls stood at the entrance gate and were re-enacting a scene from the movie ( R. Arumugam’s brothers were caught by his dad sneaking into the stadium)
Today’s training camp session was the first for Kuala Lumpur and close to 70 young footballers were seen ready on the Merdeka Stadium pitch, to take on the challenge.
It was free of charge and each participant received a rather nice looking jersey to be worn during this training session. There were about four different drill stations and every child was required to master it.
The intructors (volunteers, so I’ve been told) were very detailed in these training sessions. They split the children into groups and each group spent at least an hour at each training station.
Both my girls were spilt into different groups. Their first station for them was an eight aside football match at pitch A.
They were nervous and a little apprehensive about asking for the ball because this was their first time playing with boys. They are used to playing against the boys as part of Supergirls, an all girls football team but never with boys. This went on for about an hour and these kids played many matches, each lasting 15 minutes long. After each hour, everyone got a water break before they moved on the next station.
The other stations at this camp tested their dribbling skills. They had to drible past obstacles at a considerable speed, pass the ball to another player who had to execute shooting with their outer feet. This was a challenge for many including my girls.
As the day progressed, so did their confidence. They did rather well at the tackling one on one and two by two station. Kanchen was relentless and never let the ball leave her sight. She pursued hard for the ball. There was a special station for the keepers with their own drills.
We saw five girls at today’s morning session and some of these girls were already part of a mixed football club academy. This goes to prove, football in Malaysia is still a male dominated sport. Opportunities are springing up for girls to excel and be equal with the boys in this sport but it’s long hard journey.