The Red Giants Future Stars Gunning For Academic Success

The importance of academic education has attained a bigger awareness in modern football in the recent decade. It is no longer sufficient to only provide youngsters with football training and hopes that they will make the cut as professional players, because the harsh reality is, many youth players will not get the chance to play professionally.

For example, according to a study, only 0.012 percent of youngsters who receive organized training in England will go on to play in the Premier League. This statistic illustrates just how tough it is for youngsters to turn professional, and top clubs all over the world are mitigating the risk to youth players' future by ensuring that they still continue their studies.

It is not unusual for trainees these days to sit down and receive tutoring, or simply complete their homework, at the academy for a few hours before or after their training. This way, those who fail to make the cut will still be able to have a secure future outside of football.

Even established professionals these days are known to undergo university courses, such as Juan Mata of Manchester United, who reportedly has degrees in journalism and sports science. 

Selangor FC too acknowledges the importance of academic education for footballers, and under the leadership of Chairman, His Royal Highness DYTM Tengku Amir Shah Ibni Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Alhaj, have encouraged our future stars to embark on the tertiary level study while training and playing for the club.

It is very promising to see that this year, eight more young Selangor FC players have started their university journey.

They are Syahmi Adib, Haziq Zaki, Azrin Afiq Rusmini, Haiqal Haqeem, Adim Muzahhir, Amirul Haziq, Syaizwan Saide, and Akmal Izzudin, who are all 18 years old except for Azrin who is one year older. 

They all recently enrolled at the MARA University of Technology's (UiTM) Faculty of Sports Science and Recreation, under a mode of study devised specifically for athletes. All of them are either with Selangor FC 2, or the President’s Cup team, or the Youth Cup team currently.

"I decided to start working on a diploma as a back-up for my footballing career. At AMD (Mokhtar Dahari Academy) they encouraged us to maintain our academic studies, while my parents have always wanted me to focus on both fields, and to devote enough time to studying and training.

"I have to sacrifice my time, and rarely get the time to hang out and spend time with my mates!" explained Haziq, who this year obtained 6 A's in his Malaysian Certificate of Education (SPM) examination.

This need to split sufficient time between study and training is important to the Young Giants, especially those who are also junior national players. Azrin is one of them, and he is currently with Malaysia U-23, the same month his diploma studies began.

"It's a little tough, training and attending classes at the same time, but it is possible because I'm only with the national team for a month and my classes this semester are held online. There are ways to help us; if I can't make it to a class I will get in touch with the lecturer, and catch up later by reading the lecture notes and asking a classmate to help me keep me up to speed.

"The club has encouraged us, players, to continue studying for two reasons; firstly because we can't play forever, and secondly because they want us to rejoin them after our playing days are over, to help them with off-the-pitch matters. That way a former player can return as a sports scientist at the club, for example," said the Selangor FC 2 defender.

On top of the eight boys, six more players at the club had started their tertiary studies in the preceding years, with three of them having graduated with a diploma.

Ahmad Danial Asri's performance in this season's Malaysia Super League, having been promoted permanently to the first team, has improved tremendously. His record of three goals in 22 competitive appearances may have been known to fans, but what may not be apparent to them is that Danial has put the same amount of effort into finishing his university diploma last year.

Very recently, the forward also fondly known as Chang to his teammates shared his commitment to formal education with pupils of Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Alam Megah, during an SFC Soccer Schools Outreach event.

"Kids, as you are all still in school, it's important for you to concentrate on your studies. You can play and train football, but you need to give 100 percent to your studies as you do on the pitch.

"You must juggle your commitment wisely; don't neglect your studies to focus solely on football. Study as hard as how you train," said the lad from Rawang.

The culture of excellence at Selangor FC is not limited to just on the pitch. The club wants its players and personnel to succeed outside of football as well, as shown by their future stars' commitment to their education.

By Zulhilmi Zainal