Reinvention in the game of football doesn’t only come in terms of tactics and technological advancements but also constantly evolving the coaching manual to ensure the players are equipped with the best knowledge and training for their footballing path.
As the only coaching instructor in Malaysia with the qualification to teach the highest level of goalkeeping training to the coaches - a lot of responsibility is on the shoulders of Kris Yong to arm the nation’s goalkeeping coach with the right tools to educate the players.
Under the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) banner, there are three levels of AFC Goalkeeper course from Level 1 to Level 3 which started in earnest back in 2001 leading up to 2018 where seven Malaysians graduated from the Level 3 course.
There are only approximately seven other peers of Kris in Asia, hence why the Malaccan is a man in demand whenever a member association within AFC wants to conduct a goalkeeping course. He has received invitations from Hong Kong Football Association and India Football Association in recent times.
“Malaysia has benefited from attending Level 3. That time we had two coaches from India and one from Indonesia who attended this course. The feedback I got from them was that they were very impressed with the course delivery and at the same time, the task that was given to them.
“That course only saw around 50% who passed but everyone was happy because they have not seen these kinds of modules done before,” Kris told Goal.
Despite the enforced variations of the Movement Control Order (MCO) that has halted footballing matters in the country, Kris has used the opportunity to start up study groups that are designed to find better ways to get the best of out the talents in Malaysia - at least from a goalkeeping perspective.
With the continual easing of restrictions, Kris is already planning to hold another Level 3 course in Malaysia later this year with one Level 2 course also in the works.
While Asians lacked the physical prowess to compete with the Europeans or South Americans, goalkeeper is one position where that is less prevalent and Kris is adamant that Malaysian keepers have the potential to go further and could perhaps even one day be the best footballing exports.
“I think we stand a very good chance. I created a Malaysian group to study all these things. We have to come up with the conclusion why we are still lacking behind even though we have got good and capable goalkeepers in Malaysia. I think we produce more goalkeepers than Singapore but they are still able to export their goalkeepers to Thai League.
“Looking at it, how can we compare ourselves to a world class level? We have been there before - Arumugam, Chow Chee Keng and Khairul Azman for example. They not only made their names in the local scene but also in Asia. Like Khairul, he has height and ability.
“So we have produced that level before and we have to keep producing top class goalkeepers, and how can we drag them out of the comfort zone in Malaysia and put them in a place where they can really show their full potential.
“We look at the Under-19 now, we have Firdaus Irman who is a six-footer. I have another boy from Terengganu who is already 6’2. So we are slowly getting into the physique of goalkeepers and now it’s about how we can help them to improve their game and maximise their potential.”
There’s no doubt that current professionals like Khairul Fahmi Che Mat and Izham Tarmizi are very competent keepers but their physical stature puts a limitation on what they could achieve and that is something that Kris is emphasising on with his group of coaches.
On top of that, the demands of modern day football is also taken into consideration where goalkeepers these days used more of their feet than their hands within a game of 90 minutes. A restructuring of the coaching manuals had to be done to keep up with the times.
“We have come to a conclusion that size really matters. We can train a young goalkeeper when he’s six and he could excel until he’s 12. Looking at his size, he’s one of the tallest in the group. But after 12, he could suffer in his growth or due to overtraining, his growth is stunted. Talented yes but can we use him at international level? These are the questions that need to be asked.
“While the player could still be very good for the domestic league, there’s very little possibility of him advancing to a higher stage - the world class stage. Size matters. Now we are slowly getting into the recognition of how to identify goalkeepers with the right size, no longer just recognising them as goalkeeping capabilities.
“We look at Alisson Becker and Ederson - all these top class goalkeepers who are very good with their feet. Of course we have to change our training, otherwise we will never improve. We come out with our own module that even when they are six years old, they have to play most of the time with their feet.
“We’ll only start to introduce the goalkeeper handling at the later stage. Means what comes first is always the feet, the ability to play with the feet. So we’ll do it part time with their hands until we can realise who out of this group is the best one with their hands.”
Gone were the days when young keepers that got their Super League or Premier League breaks, could not even send a goal kick beyond the halfway line. The teaching and training of goalkeepers are more organised and specific these days and if Malaysia could one day produce a goalkeeper wanted the world over, Kris Yong could very well have played a big HAND in it!