The Desa Mentari low-cost flats in Sunway, Selangor has been in the news for many years, for all the wrong reasons.
Murder cases, drugs, gangsterism and social issues like vandalism, teenage pregnancies, abandoned babies as well as overcrowding and influx of foreigners were among the concerns for the residents and authorities.
Understanding the need to engage with the residents to create a better living environment, a coalition comprising resident groups, non-governmental organisations and former councilors formed MyPJ.
MyPJ chairman Jeffrey Phang, said developing a community spirit of togetherness in Desa Mentari is an uphill battle, given the deep-rooted mistrust among the residents and racial elements at play.
“This is why we choose to work with a young group of people – boys from primary schools, up to the age of 17. These young boys learn to play together regardless of race and we use this as an opportunity to instill values such as unity and leadership,” he said when met outside the futsal court at Desa Mentari.
Watching a group of boys being trained by coach Ebenzer Lasal whom MyPJ had engaged for the project, Jeffrey said so far about 60 boys from blocks 4, 5 and 6 of Desa Mentari low-cost flats have registered to join the futsal practices.
“We informed the parents through WhatsApp groups and put up announcements at the notice boards near the lifts. The response has been good especially from parents with young children. They come down from their units and watch the boys play,” he said.
“Through these futsal practices, we provide leadership training and citizenship education. They need to know what is happening around them, the problems in this area, the importance of local election for example and how to function better in a multi-racial community,” he said.
“We want these boys to play a role in shaping the community as they grow older,” he added.
MyPJ first started engaging youth groups through futsal practice in Kota Damansara, Selangor.
“We saw the positive impact in Kota Damansara after starting the futsal practice sessions there. When we came to know about the situation in Desa Mentari, we decided to use the same formula and work with the youth here too. The main aim of our project is to build a safe environment and a harmonious community,” he added.
One of the boys who joined the futsal practice, Putra Azrul Hakimi Mohd Raimy, 14, has been playing football since the age of four.
“I hope to play professional football one day. I admire our local footballer Mohamad Aidil Zafuan Abd. Radzak and wish I can play like him,” he said.
He said through the futsal training, he was able to make friends with other boys in the area.
“I really enjoy playing with my friends here. If we did not have this futsal practice, I would be home, playing games on my handphone or surf the Internet. This practice gives me a chance to exercise and sweat it out,” he said.
Meanwhile, coach Ebenzer Lasal, 32, who runs his own futsal academy at Petaling Jaya, Selangor said futsal is a good way to reach out to young boys and help to shape their mindset and behaviour.
“It’s all about discipline, the ones under the age of 12 are usually on time as they come to the practice accompanied by their parents. The older ones need to be reminded each time to be punctual,” he said.
Ebenzer said he has been coaching young boys from low-income background for the last 10 years.
“It is my way of giving back to society. I identify talents through these practices and sponsor them to go up to competitive levels,” he said.
RYTHM Foundation supports MyPJ in its efforts to engage and educate youth through sports. Through this engagement, we hope to encourage the youth to play an active role in helping to develop their community.