KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 15 — Nurdhiya Addin Mohd Azhari or Dhiya has always been active in sports.
She was into taekwondo, netball and shot putt.
But knowing that she could do more led her to the world of futsal and she joined the co-ed team of The Eliminator, in the Milo Hidup Bola carnival.
Her mother, Norizan Harun said the programme has been good for Dhiya as it has helped her become a well-rounded person, in and off the court.
The 12-year-old has thrived under coach Azizi Mohd Yatim, who formed the team and has himself overcome the odds due to a leg deformity.
“Being in a co-ed team teaches her the valuable lesson of equality and competitiveness,” said Norizan.
“I’m glad it has opened her eyes to the reality that anyone can achieve what they set out to do, regardless of gender. I’m even more pleased that she has learned this at a young age.”
Dhiya’s hard work has paid off and she was awarded the Best Leadership Award at a recent Milo Champions Clinic as well as Best Improvement in Performance by her school.
Norizan said Dhiya has also been able to manage her time more efficiently since being active in sports and being a member of the futsal team.
She is among hundreds of children who have joined Milo Hidup Bola since its launch in 2006.
The initiative was in line with the government’s call to encourage youth participation in sports.
It also gives younger Malaysians a chance to showcase their skills in a professional and competitive environment.
Some of them have gone on to represent the country in international tournaments.
This year, the initiative takes on a greater significance as it is part of the Milo Aktif Negaraku, a movement to get five million Malaysians to start living an active lifestyle.
Another child under the programme is Ryan Tengku Shahdeli, who joined The Eliminator when he was five years old.
Ryan, who is asthmatic, also dreams of becoming a professional footballer.
“I was a bit nervous about letting Ryan play futsal at first,” said his father Tengku Shahdeli, adding that his son has managed to stay active despite his condition.
“But upon consulting his doctor, I placed my trust in the coach to take Ryan under his wing and it has paid off.
“He is also more mature and responsible,” said Tengku Shahdeli, who has been inspired by Ryan to play football every weekend.
Tengku Shahdeli added that Ryan is making an effort to learn more about his condition and asks his doctor questions every chance he gets.
For Mohd Luqman Afiq, who joined the Red Galacticos four years ago at the age of 14, it was more about breaking away from computer games and breaking a sweat.
Previously, he would spend an average of six hours a day sitting in front of his computer.
“I was encouraged by my father to get active and pick up a sport. That was how I got involved in futsal,” said Luqman, who now plays football for his university residential college.
“It has helped me find the balance I need to stay fit and healthy while still being able to enjoy computer games.”
His father, Zulkifli Hassan, remembered how Luqman struggled with his training when he first joined Red Galacticos, another team under the initiative.
“I told him, he didn’t have to go through it if he didn’t enjoy it.
“But he stayed on because he wanted to keep fit. With the help of Red Galacticos coach Kevin Yee, he gained the confidence to keep going.”
“The hours were long — some days, training would go on till midnight and tournaments could last a whole day — but I would stay until the end to cheer my son on because the results are rewarding.”