(Selangor Champions League 2017 Winners Axis O2 PJ FC. Headline Photo Credit: Football Selangor)

The successful conclusion of the second edition of grassroots football tournament, the Selangor Champions League, has demonstrated that the locals use football to work together for the common good of the people in the Malaysian state without any association from the national or state football authorities.

When the people unite together for a common cause, powerful things can happen and dreams turn into reality.

As Malaysia football blogger Padang Bola Sepak opened his thoughts so eloquently in his blog post.

“Football belongs to the people.
Football is about community.
Together with the community, football starts with us.”

The Selangor Champions League (SCL) was an illustration of such a movement from a group of like-minded people from Malaysia’s richest state, which also boasts a storied domestic football heritage that spans decades.

It is the brainchild of Tengku Amir Shah, the Raja Muda (Crown Prince) of Selangor, who believes in getting the people together through the Beautiful Game.

Raja Muda Selangor Tengku Amir Shah
Raja Muda Selangor, Tengku Amir Shah (middle) gracing the Selangor Champions League 2017 final at Shah Alam Stadium. (Photo Credit: Football Selangor)

What is beautiful and heartening in witnessing the progress and proceedings of the tournament and pre-event festivities, is the involvement of the average person on the street – and without any assistance from the national and state football governing bodies.

With active grassroots involvement on and off the pitch, the SCL is a genuine people’s football tournament the Selangor people can call their own.

Gracing the Same Turf Their Local Heroes Played on

Traditionally the mecca of all important occasions in professional football for state and country, the majestic Shah Alam Stadium was the venue for the first competitive amateur game – the SCL final.

For amateur footballers, until then, it was possibly never in their wildest dreams that they would be playing on the same ground that local state legends in recent times such as Azman Adnan, K. Sanbagamaran and more recently Safee Sali had grace with distinction in the 20-over years of the stadium’s history.

To have the privilege of playing on the same lush green turf, and with around 6,000, including the RMS, in attendance, is strong motivation for the players of the finalists PIB FC and Axis O2 PJ FC to display their best football for the occasion.

Selangor Champions League 2017 Final 2
It might be an amateur football tournament final, but the players from Selangor Champions League finalists PIB FC (in light blue) and Axis O2 PJ FC (in green and yellow) displayed tenacity and commitment on the pitch that professionals will be proud of. (Photo Credit: Football Selangor)

The two finalists had emerged from a strong SCL pool of 16 teams, derived from the best teams in various state social leagues, over a few stages in the space of four months in the second half of the year to earn the right to play in the showpiece event.

The final itself was a spirited affair as Axis were rewarded for their persistence with a late goal in the second half to cancel out the first half opener from PIB and force the match into penalties.

Accurate shot stopping from the Axis goalkeeper was fundamental to their eventual success as his three saves paved the way to their 4-1 shootout victory.

Engaging Grassroots and Youth Development

In conjunction with the Selangor Community Football Day and SCL final, there were pre-match activities organised inside and outside the vicinity of Shah Alam Stadium.

A notable event was the Perangsang Selangor Speakers’ Corner held in the afternoon. Inside the Shah Alam Stadium VIP Dining Room, a distinguished panel spoke passionately from their hearts.

The small audience gathered inside the room were all ears as the four distinguished football speakers shared their heartfelt thoughts and experiences in youth and grassroots football development.

The panel of speakers on Selangor football (from left to right): NFDP CEO Safirul Azli Abu Bakar, Current Perak head coach and former Selangor player and coach Mehmet Durakovic, Malaysia and Selangor football legend Datuk Santokh Singh, Little League Soccer GM Shazwan Wong.

There was no holding back as each speaker expressed what he felt could be improved in the state of football in Selangor and Malaysia. Current Perak head coach Mehmet Durakovic lamented the loss of promising talent who had banked on careers in football without an educational plan and expressed his personal shock when he stumbled on two of his former Selangor youth players working at McDonald’s after they left the game prematurely due to injuries.

National Football Development Programme (NFDP) Chief Executive Officer Safirul Azli Abu Bakar would like the states to be more engaging in improving their respective youth development systems and complement the work NFDP has been doing over the past few years.

Little League Soccer General Manager Shazwan Wong believed everyone has a role to play in the children’s interest and passion in the game and called for youth coaches to be actively engaging with the kids and their parents.

Malaysia football legend Datuk Santokh Singh reminded the young players to upkeep the long-standing traditional virtues of discipline, determination and dedication as they work their way towards a professional football career.

The extensive knowledge shared by the panellists was reciprocated by the probing questions from the audience during the Question-and-Answer session. The queries were focused and straightforward as they wanted to understand more on how they could contribute better in their respective roles in grassroots and youth football.

The two-way exchange of thoughts and ideas demonstrated the collective passion in their desire to raise the game in improving the state of football in Selangor and beyond.

Rest of Pre-SCL Final Festivities

It was not all talk and no play though, as an array of activities and booths populated the vast outdoor lobby at the grandstand section of Shah Alam Stadium in the day.

Selangor Champions League 2017 Final Mini Futsal Tournament
Three-a-side mini futsal tournament. (Photo Credit: Football Selangor)

A three-a-side youth futsal tournament and football freestyling competition were held, while a mobile library, an e-games station and various merchandise and food and beverage booths were set up to keep the public involved.

Selangor Champions League 2017 Final EGames
The public enjoying FIFA 18 at the E-games station. (Photo Credit: Football Selangor)

The pre-final curtain raisers allowed the everyday folks to don their football best as the celebrities, media and other amateur footballers from Selangor and Terengganu imagined themselves to be the wannabe Santokh, Mokhtar Dahari or Soh Chin Aun during their moments on the pitch.

Keeping the Selangor Community Football Legacy Going

The final day, with the on and off-the-pitch festivities, was the culmination of the continuous engagement the organisers Football Selangor had with the state locals throughout the duration of the tournament over the past few months.

Residents got involved from the stands as they cheered on their loved ones, friends and colleagues who were battling out their hearts and souls for their respective SCL sides on the pitch. Continuous media and social media broadcasts from the media partners kept the locals informed on the SCL happenings.

This tournament was a journey for all who had been involved in every way. From the players who had sweated it out with their passion and commitment on the pitch, to the organisers and volunteers who toiled to ensure the events went seamlessly without a hitch. Not for the personal glory they sought, but for the collective betterment for the grassroots game in Selangor.

Selangor Champions League 2017 Final Crowd 2
Who will have thought a bagpipe and drums will combine with such seamless harmony while offering support to their favourite team in the final? Certainly these fans do, enlivening the occasion with lively tunes and without missing a beat. (Photo Credit: Football Selangor)

For the players and officials of SCL 2017 champions Axis, the honour of receiving their winners’ medals and trophy from RMS was an indescribable feeling they would savour for the rest of their lives. To be among the three amateur teams to enter the main draw for next year’s Malaysia FA Cup – a pilot initiative announced by the Football Association of Malaysia on the day of the SCL final – was a surprise bonus.

With such enthusiasm and promise from what was witnessed in the SCL finale, it has the potential to establish itself as a permanent state grassroots football event that will eventually become a must-not-miss occasion for local football enthusiasts in the long-run.

Well done to all for making the SCL 2017 a success, and long may the passion and fire continue to burn in promoting and growing football in Selangor.