kids play football in india
The U-15 Youth league will come as a much-needed boost for these young guns of IndiaReuters

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) had announced the introduction of the U-15 youth league last year, but we had to wait for a long time to see the tournament finally happening.

The governing body of football in India seems to have finally decided to kick-start the youth league in September this year.

The aim of the league is to prepare a rock hard team for the U-17 FIFA World Cup 2017, where India participates as the host nation.

In the tournament, teams from the I-League, the 2nd Division League, the AIFF Academy as well as other private academies will participate. Also, regional centres of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) would also be participating.

"This is the beginning of us looking at junior age-groups," Indian National Football Team head coach Stephen Constantine said at a workshop at the AIFF Headquarters in New Delhi.

"With the U-15 sorted out – we should be venturing into the U-13 and U-11 from now on. I want to see State Associations holding Regional Leagues in the U-13, U-11 and U-9 categories. And it doesn't end even there. We need to develop a Football culture in the Schools, Universities and playschools. Only then will we start producing World Class Players," he explained.

Constantine added that "we need to accept that it is through our Indian youth system that we are going to build a Team for the future. Unfortunately everybody wants results immediately but there is no shortcut when it comes to development."

I-League CEO Sunando Dhar said the format of the youth league will be similar to the U-19 I-League – which is played on a zonal basis initially and the best teams from the respective zones head to the final round.

"The zonal phases would be played on a home and away basis while the final phase would be played at a Central venue," said Dhar. 

He also stated that the venue for the final phase will be decided soon.

Competition among youngsters is lacking at the moment when it comes to football. Although the beautiful game is played in every nook and corner of the country, kids mostly take up the game as a pastime and stay fit. 

"One of our biggest issues is the lack of Competitions for our youngsters. Even in the States that do have competitions, they normally last for maybe two months. It is not enough," said AIFF technical director Scott O'Donell. 

"Playing competitive games is part of a Players development. We have had some boys who have played in our National age-group Teams who played their first competitive game of Football at the AFC Qualifiers.

"Playing Friendly games is OK but it doesn't prepare the Players for the battle of Competition. In a friendly game if you give away a penalty or you get a silly yellow card, there are no consequences. But conceding a penalty in an AFC qualifier may be the difference between qualifying or exit. Getting an unnecessary yellow card may result in a team not having their best Player available for an important game," said the Australian. 

Strangely, no Indian Super League team will be participating in the youth league.

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