“Before joining Midnight Football (MF), I was a very lazy person, I dislike sharing my thoughts with others and I only mix around with my own friends. But after joining lots of activities in MF program, I gained new friends from other schools and finally I managed to break through my comfort zone….MF helps to unite all races as a family… and discover our hidden talents.” – Loshannaa Ravichandran, MF Participant
This is one of the many testimonials from at‐risk youth whom lives had bee transformed via a unique social project that utilises sports, in particular football, to build character, leadership and most importantly, to create a sense of belonging and purpose in their lives.
The program is also community‐driven, as it is identified that character transformation could only happened when multi‐stakeholders such as the youth, parents, teachers, and community leaders are engaged together.
Through this program, we could guide these young people to a better career path and life after SPM. We hope to transform the lives of these students into confident, responsible future adults.
This year, the Midnight Football is once again kick‐starting the third edition of its program, this time in SMK Dato’ Onn at Jalan Loke Yew in Kuala Lumpur.
Last month in March, the GPFM team had conducted an observation survey in SMK Dato’ Onn where there were to over a hundred students present, most were from working class families.
It was a pleasant moment interacting with these cheerful, interesting bunch of teenage girls and boys. All of them showed their enthusiasm towards the program, even though a lot of them do not play football.
The survey provided a fascinating bird’s eye view about the reality on the ground; we found out poverty has been the single most pressing problem faced by the youth. Their parents have tight financial expenses, and some could not afford to spend money on extra‐curriculum activities and due to their hectic working schedule, most can’t afford to spend more time with their kids.
The community environment that they live are surrounded by commercial buildings, boutiques and shopping centres. Hence, most students are more interested in material pursue and would prefer to loiter around the malls. They would rather work part time to earn extra money to go for shopping rather than focusing on their studies.
Moreover, the students face major difficulty in communication skills, especially the Chinese students whom have poor grasp of Malay, our national language. A few of the facilitators during the survey had to use a Chinese translator to explain to them about the program (the survey was conducted in Malay). Worse still, All of the students could barely speak nor understand English. The language barrier is a huge concern, it unintentionally creates segregation and polarisation among the students as they would rather mix and be friends with their own races.
All these caused them to perform poorly in school, as they become unmotivated and disinterested to learn in the classroom. Indeed, these students see that schooling is unrelated to their lives nor future career and therefore has nothing to offer them.
On the other hand, we observed that the students were quite frankly ‘hungry’ for such sports activities, but their school lacked sports facilities and there’s no field for outdoor activities. While the students whom are mostly from poor background could not afford to pay for the rental of the sports facilities outside the schools.
In the end of day, we successfully signed up more than sixty students to the program. Half of them joined because they love playing football, while another half joined because they want to be involved in more sports and outdoors activities.
We believe this program is timely, it aims to address the root cause of delinquency among the youth, besides providing a fun, inspiring avenue for character development.
The Midnight Football will officially kick start on the first week of April where these students will begin their training under a host of experienced football trainers from the Asian Football Confederation.
Due to the success of the first two editions of the Midnight Football program, the Malaysia’s Department of National Unity and Integration will also be spearheading this program as part of the government’s youth development agenda.
The Midnight Football program is a joint effort by the Global Peace Foundation of Malaysia (GPFM), Malaysia’s Department of National Unity and Integration (JPNIN), and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Dream Asia Initiative.
The first Midnight Football pilot program focusing on at‐risk youth was successfully launched in September 2010 in Cheras and concluded in July 2010. While the second Midnight Football program was launched in July 2011 in Sentul for a period of eight months.
Midnight Football has been recognized as the first program in Asia to use football, with other peer‐support mechanisms, to guide at‐risk youth.