As a nation, we never seem to run out of ideas, do we?
Implementation, of course, is a complete different thing. When we spoke to the good folks of Shah Alam Antlers in October 2016, we discovered an idea – one that was empowering, inspirational and even astute. Then there was a blueprint that outlined tangible ways to target and achieve exponential progress. As a result, we wrote a comprehensive article on them – you can read it all in the story attached below.
But seven months down the road, the idea has evolved tremendously. It’s no longer an idea. It’s a movement. It’s a collective identity for a growing number of football. It’s easily the most reputable social football club in Malaysia right now. And on Friday night, they’ll be going up against Pemanis FC from Kuala Terengganu, as a result of an exclusive invitation from the Ministry of Youth and Sports, to officially launch the newly-refurbished Bukit Jalil Stadium.
Earlier this week, we caught up with Shah Alam Antlers’ CEO, Ahmad Yani Ismail, for a quick chat on everything they’ve accomplished over the last seven months as well as future plans for the club.
FO: It’s been seven months since we last spoke to you! And in that time, Shah Alam Antlers’ reputation has grown tremendously and you guys even won the KV League without losing a single game! It’s been relentless, hasn’t it?
Yani: You bet! We’ve gone through so much over the last few months and sometimes when I look back, it’s unbelievable. It’s not too say that we’ve not had tough times though. There were some really difficult moments, but we persevered through it – both from a management perspective and from a footballing perspective.
FO: Tell us about the KV League. How big of a deal was it to win the entire tournament while staying unbeaten?
Yani: People say ‘it’s only a social league’. But it’s a competitive one. At least five to six teams in the league were determined and capable enough to win the league and we had some really difficult games. But Coach Muthu and the boys worked hard and performed consistently throughout the season.
FO: What about the fanbase? When we last spoke to you, this entire club was merely an idea. But based on pictures we’ve seen, the title celebration looked pretty emphatic! Fans with banners and flares!
Yani: It’s encouraging. As we told you when the club first started out, this is all purely for them. The only reason this club exists is to serve the people of Shah Alam. It’s their team, their community. But obviously we knew it was always take time before we could build a trust. I’m just glad it’s developing faster than we expected. There are three fans within the club exco now and they play a role in most decision-making processes these days. Hopefully the numbers will grow as we develop. But we’re on the same path we wanted to go on last year. The path that prioritizes long-term growth over short-term hype.
FO: What else have you guys worked on over the last seven months?
Yani: Besides improving the squad, we’ve focused on community engagement. We’re produced matchday program booklets for every game KV League game we were involved in. We’ve hosted several foreign players for training purposes, including ex-Felda United and Sarawak frontman Ndumba Makeche. The boys visited a couple of schools in Shah Alam as well, and we’ve also hosted numerous friendly games between fans and the management of the club. It’s all been so positive and we’ve got plenty of stuff coming soon as well!
FO: Seven months later, you guys received an invite to help officiate the Bukit Jalil Stadium! How big of a deal is this for the players?
Yani: Yes! Our players are excited in ways I can’t descibe. For a lot of these boys, playing in a social football team was something they never expected, not too long ago. Now, they have an opportunity to play at the Bukit Jalil Stadium, against a good team like Pemanis FC as well. Those guys have former FAM Cup players in their team, so it should be a good test for our boys. But let’s not forget the fans. On Friday night, Shah Alam Antlers fans will also be able to watch the team play in Bukit Jalil. We can’t wait for it!
FO: So we heard the Selangor Champions League will get underway in August and you guys are probably preparing for it now. How’s the preparation going along?
Yani: Selangor Champions League will be extremely competitive as the best community football teams from across the Klang Valley will be competing in it. Before we joined the KV League, our boys didn’t know what to expect. But this time around, it’ll be different. The confidence is there now, and the players know what it takes to win a football game. If we stay humble and remained focus, we could spring a real surprise in the SCL this year.
FO: What else is coming up? We heard that a partnership with NFDP is being worked out. That must be a huge deal?
Yani: We’ve been planning to open a youth development division of Shah Alam Antlers for a while now. Not a full-fledged academy set-up, but we plan to launch initiatives and programs for the younger citizens of Shah Alam. The programs will focus on developing young footballers of different age groups and it will also feature a special ‘ball mastery’ program. More details on that will be revealed to the public soon. And yes, the National Football Development Program (NFDP) have been in touch with us about a possible partnership. It’s good to our efforts being recognized on a national scale. At the same time, we are also in the midst of planning a ‘Shah Alam Open Day’ for us to engage and interact with people and families that live in Shah Alam! It’ll happen after Ramadhan and Hari Raya – more information on that will also be revealed soon!
FO: Sounds like you’ve got your plates full! Thanks for speaking with us Yani and good luck for the game on Friday night!
Yani: Pleasure’s all mine. Keep supporting local football!
Shah Alam Antlers’ match against Pemanis FC will kick-off at 8PM tomorrow. Entrance is free and members of the public will be able to get a glimpse of the refurbished Bukit Jalil Stadium tomorrow. At the same time, Astro Arena will be broadcasting the match live on Astro On The Go as well as YouTube.