Posted by Marketing, 6th January 2016
Following on from Global Image Sports’ announcement of a new office and base of operations in South East Asia – we were able to sit down with Datin Vivienne Leong, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of 1MCC Sports Sdn Bhd, who are helping to grow the presence and reach of the sport within Malaysia. In a wide ranging interview – the discussion covered how these projects impact the region and its effervescent following of the beautiful game.
Hi Vivienne – could you tell us about 1MCC please and about how it came to be?
When Dato’ Chan Tien Ghee, our Chairman, was involved in Cardiff City Football Club 5 years ago, he noticed the power of football in bringing families together and as a tool to aid personal and not just simply physical development. He decided to do something for his home country, Malaysia, by using football as a tool to bring communities together and to harness the power of the sport. This led to the formation of 1MCC, a community project. 1MCC runs a youth league for 9 months of the year that allows kids across 3 age groups (12, 14 and 16) to regularly play competitive football. The Liga 1MCC (as it is known) only stops for Ramadan, the Monsoon season and for school exams.
And how many teams play in this league you run?
Currently we have 280 teams spread across the three different age groups – which is fantastic when you consider there are about 100 clubs in Kuala Lumpur itself. We’ve seen 6 different expansions into other states in the country since we began.
Is it fair to say that the company has developed quite a bit from when you started then?
Absolutely! We’ve recently been invited by the National Football Development Programme to participate in the SuperMokh Cup 2015. We have also launched our own Football Club, Invictus FC, which will begin life initially as a social club with the ultimate aim of hopefully joining the divisional leagues in Malaysia one day. The Invictus Football Club initiative is a pathway for the kids within the Liga 1MCC who graduate at 16; it gives them the opportunity to join a professional club and it is a means to continue their development and education to advance further into the professional game.
Are you involved within other areas of the game or do you focus on developing professionals?
Yes, we not only develop players, but coaches as well, mainly by taking an extremely holistic approach within the company. We help create coaching structures and run coaching sessions not only for the players or teams participating in our league, the Liga 1MCC, but also for their own coaching staff. We also have a soccer school, 1MCC Youth Soccer which caters to players who are not looking at playing professionally but who want to enjoy the game. Here we have under 8s, 11s, 13s, 15s and 17s across both boys and girls groups and we provide them with coaching that is designed to achieve development through enjoyment.
We’ve seen that you work with West Ham United when you visit the UK – can you tell us a bit more about that please?
Yes – this is a collaboration undertaken with Astro – a Malaysian TV broadcast company who we have been in partnership with for 4 consecutive years. It is a talent search programme where we scout for players (boys and girls) aged 10-12 years old. We receive applications from over 3,000 participants from 6 different states across Malaysia. From the original 3,000 applicants we pick the best boys and girls who then undergo an advanced camp selection process in the capital. At the end of this camp – we choose 16 boys and 16 girls – who are the lucky ones selected to go to England and visit West Ham United or any of our partner clubs.
How long will they visit when they are in England?
The 32 players will spend about 10-11 days in the UK at the Football Club. It is a life-changing experience! Imagine young boys and girls, some from remote parts of Malaysia, travelling all the way to the UK to participate in activities which include watching a live Premier League match, visiting football stadiums, schools, training and playing against other football players from academies in and around London! We have already done 4 trips with Astro, 2 to Cardiff City FC and 2 to West Ham United.
And is this the only collaboration you have?
Actually – it isn’t. We also work with a group called Felda which is a government organisation. Felda has a team playing in the Super League in Malaysia and they have a football academy which feeds players into their professional team. In 2014 we brought 50 Felda Academy elite players over to England and they also spent time at West Ham United. Our aim was to give them world class training and football knowledge and also to bring their coaches across to provide greater exposure to top level teams and their methods to meet the players and coaches’ developmental needs.
How has Global Image Sports helped with the growth of 1MCC?
GIS have been fantastic by providing a level of service to help us make connections in the right areas. They enable us to link with other clubs and create opportunities for visits to professional academies and exposure to those environments. They’ve helped to establish the link with West Ham United and have given us the chance to connect with other professional clubs which can be a huge benefit to the players involved in our programmes. They have knowledge that enables us to give our players a standard of coaching and opportunity that is hard to find anywhere else. This partnership forms part of the growth of 1MCC outside the country.
When you think about the size of the game in Malaysia now – what are your initial impressions?
The sport is watched and followed religiously – it permeates beyond being a game and now impacts on our very culture. Football is the most popular sport in Malaysia. 1MCC was founded on the idea that we could achieve something from the grassroots – to develop players at this level and provide them with an embodied set of holistic qualities that they can ultimately retain, both on and off the pitch.
That’s great to hear - do you feel you have achieved this?
If you look back 5 years ago when we set up 1MCC – we all said that day if we worked hard and kept at it, we would be able to achieve our goals. Invictus Football Club is to some extent, the culmination of that process and pathway; from grassroots at our league stage, to finally entering the club stage with Invictus FC. Furthermore, we now want to achieve a system of sustainability in order to continue to create well-rounded players, and to give youngsters who love the game of football an opportunity to fulfil their highest personal potential. Partnering with an entity like Global Image Sports helps that process.
So it’s fair to say that 1MCC will begin to have national presence soon?
We hope to! We are already assisting the National Sports Schools and the National Football Development Programme via the players who participate in the Liga 1MCC. These players have honed their skills through their individual clubs but have also participated in the Liga 1MCC which provided a competitive platform for them. Our visits to West Ham United and the West Ham training programmes are already helping some of our participants improve their game. 1MCC’s link with GIS enables us to do this with other clubs in Europe as well.
Global Image Sports was speaking to Datin Vivienne Leong, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of 1MCC Sports Sdn Bhd. GIS have recently opened an office in South East Asia in continuing development of soccer programmes within the region, such as those described in this article that are set to grow over the coming years. If you would like your club to be involved in this fantastic opportunity, please contact John Birtwistle at firstname.lastname@example.org.