On Friday, March 16, 2007, the Champions Youth Cup was launched at the posh Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
After exchanging pleasantries with a few people, I saw Citizen Nades loitering around, outside the room where the launch was about to be held. Aha, the big man is here!
On stage were of course Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said, Gifted Group Ltd chairman, Jonathan Price, FA of Malaysia general secretary Datuk Seri Ibrahim Saad and Sports Ministry's Secretary General, Datuk Yasin Salleh.
Among the VIPs in attendance were Tan Sri Elyas Omar, Datuk Zolkples Embong, Datuk Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz and Khairy Jamaluddin, at that time yet to be called a YB.
When the floor was opened to questions, I remember only four stood up to pose queries, Berita Harian's Khawari, Chris from RTM, Citizen Nades, and I. This was the PC in which Azalina challenged Nades to stand for elections.
I stood up asking Azalina to confirm Malay Mail's report the day before.
Tony Mariadass, my ex-boss but now a special officer for Azalina, quickly went on stage armed with a file.
I was anxiously waiting for her reply. If she denies it, there goes my credibility and my story. As it turned out, she confirmed it! Thereon Khawari, Nades and I had a field day, debating with the legal eagle called Azalina on the need to pay RM17 million for staging rights alone!
Each time we posed a question, Khairy, seated in front facing the stage, would turn and look at the inquisitor!
THE price the Youth and Sports Ministry and the Tourism Ministry have to pay for the hosting rights of the Champions Youth Cup (CYC) involving teams from some of the best known clubs in Europe may balloon up to STG7.5 million (RM51 million).
A three-year deal was inked last November between the Sports Ministry and the promoter of the tournament, Gifted Group Limited, valued at STG2.5 million (RM17 million) per edition.
Chairman of Gifted, Jonathan Price, in confirming that payment for the inaugural edition in August 2007 would be paid over four instalments, said the Ministry have the option of terminating the contract after a year.
"We signed a three-year agreement in November and there is a clause in the agreement which stipulates that each party has the right at any time to terminate the contract," said Price after the launch of CYC in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
Mailsport broke the story on Thursday that RM17 million was being spent to stage the CYC, the most expensive football tournament in our history from Aug 5-19.
One of football's foremost leaders in the 1980s, Datuk Paduka Ahmad Basri Mohd Akil, objected to the tournament, pointing out that the money could be channeled for development at grassroots and the academies.
Former international Syed Ahmad Abu Bakar, who obliterated South Korea and Japan en route to earning Malaysia a place in the 1972 Olympic Games, said the money could have been spent to reinvent the Merdeka Tournament to coincide with the 50th Merdeka celebrations.
"If things were planned properly, it would have been a walk down memory lane if the Government had decided to rebrand the Merdeka Tournament by inviting South Korea and Japan, our perennial rivals those days, or renowned clubs from Europe, repackage it and market it like never before," said Syed Ahmad.
Saddened by the lacklustre domestic competition, Syed Ahmad said the Government should have pumped more money to raise the standard of the M-League in order for it to enjoy a bigger media profile.
"One way of promoting Malaysia through football is by having a strong domestic league. We will then be able to attract the big names to ply their trade here. The Qatari league was suddenly thrown into the limelight after players like Romario, Gabriel Batistuta, Jay Jay Okocha and Marcel Desailly were lured to Doha.
"The impact would be tremendous," said the former Perak, Penang and Johor striker.
The CYC launch on Friday was officiated by Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said who confirmed the STG2.5 million (RM17 million) was paid to Gifted as the hosting rights of the tournament.
"The joint committee of Youth and Sports Ministry and Tourism Ministry had agreed to bid for the tournament and the expenses are equally shared by both Ministries. The proposal was endorsed by the Cabinet Committee for Sports Development," said Azalina.
"I understand sports journalists like to look at things from the development point of view, but please view the bigger picture and the benefits it brings to tourism in this country."
Earlier, Azalina launched the tournament which will feature the Under-19 teams from 14 of the world's great football clubs, among others, AC Milan, Ajax Amsterdam, Arsenal, Chelsea, Flamengo, Boca Juniors, Bayern Munich and Manchester United. The Malaysian and Qatari Under-19 teams complete the 16-team tournament.
The organisational procedure of the tournament, however, remains sketchy.
First, Price confirmed they have yet to obtain sanction from Fifa.
"We are required to apply for sanction eight weeks prior to the tournament," said Price.
Secondly, the proposed stint with Arsenal is not concrete despite the commitment by G-14 chairman, David Dein, who is also the vice-chairman of the Gunners.