Far removed from the floodlights of the Indian Super League, there’s a quiet buzz around I-League club offices across the country. The Under-18 I-League has already started in almost all zones, but it’s the Under-15 Youth League that has captured everybody’s attention within the football fraternity – coaches and parents alike. Several meetings and delays later, it’s finally happening – India’s Under-15 Youth League is here and all set to begin tomorrow. The first match of the league will see Mohammedan Sporting Club host Mohun Bagan AC in a Kolkata derby with other zonal leagues around the country slated to kick off within a week.
Conducting the Under-15 Youth League will be a massive achievement for the AIFF and will serve as a fillip to talented, young footballers all over India to showcase their skills on the national stage. While it’s mainly a platform for Under-17 National Team Coach, Nicolai Adam, and his team of scouts to identify talent as India prepares for the 2017 Under-17 World Cup, the Under-15 league offers much-needed match experience to an age group starved of any real competition. Importantly, it encourages clubs and academies to provide the required pathways to gifted footballers coming through India’s fledgling grassroots system. Besides I-League clubs, AIFF has prudently allowed youth and grassroots academies such as Steadfast Football Academy and Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools to field teams in the league so that academies are also goaded to invest more time and effort on elite talents coming through their system.
Speaking about the upcoming Under-15 league, Scott O’Donell, Technical Director, AIFF said:
“The AIFF has taken a really firm step to launch this U-15 Youth League. Unless the youngsters are given serious exposure to competitive football, they won’t get ready for the bigger stage, which will be tougher and steeper. Indeed we’re looking forward towards the 2017 U-17 FIFA World Cup. The spotters will have a significant opportunity to handpick raw talents ahead of the World Cup, which is less than two years from now.”
India’s Under-15 Youth League will comprise 40 teams divided into 6 geographic zones. These zones are:
- Rest of India
As per the league format, 2 teams from each zone will qualify for the National Round where the teams will be divided again into 2 groups. In the National Round, the top 2 teams from each group will play in the semi-finals and the winners of each semi-final will battle to be Under-15 Youth League champions.
While the success of the league depends heavily on checking age fraud and good league administration, the Under-15 Youth League is undoubtedly a big boost for youth football in India. We hope to see many new, emerging talents take centre stage. Stay tuned to GFI for all the news on India’s inaugural Under-15 Youth League!