Arsenal 'not aware' of Malaysian joint training plan

An announced Malaysia-Arsenal FC joint-venture to train the South East Asian country’s young footballers has been questioned after a denial was received by the Malay Mail newspaper from the English Premier League club. “I am afraid we are not able to provide you with answers to your questions or an official club comment, however, I can confirm that the club does not know about the proposed arrangement and furthermore, we have no involvement in any such project,” an e-mail response from the communications department of Arsenal stated.

Upon further investigation, the newspaper discovered the only discussion on the subject was held at Arsenal’s state-of-the-art training centre in Hertfordshire, between a five-man recce team from Kuala Lumpur and the centre manager, Sean O’Connor, just before the Cabinet Committee on Sports Development’s announcement on the proposed stint on 8 February. Football Association of Malaysia General Secretary Datuk Seri Dr Ibrahim Saad confirmed to the newspaper that the only formal contact between the two parties took place when the high-powered group was taken for a tour of the training centre recently.

Ibrahim, who was a member of the five-man team, said the Sports Ministry were in a better position to explain because the proposed stint was part of the Government’s agreement with the powerful European football bloc of G-14, which among others, was to pave the way for Malaysian teams to train with members of the pressure group. Ibrahim said the arrangement was mooted because of the centre’s proximity with the Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre in Brickendonbury, which will be converted into a high-performance training centre. "We spoke to the training centre manager, O’Connor, about the idea and he told us to discuss with the Arsenal management,” said Ibrahim.

Ibrahim believed FAM technical director Robert Alberts, the driving force behind the Arsenal Soccer Schools in Malaysia, and an agent representing the interests of G-14 and the Malaysian Government, had been given the mandate to negotiate with Arsenal.