By AIFF Media

NEW DELHI: All India Football Federation’s proposed U-15 League is all set to kick-off from September 2015. The announcement came during the I-League Workshop held at AIFF Headquarters, Football House on Tuesday (July 7).

Speaking on the occasion, I-League CEO Mr. Sunando Dhar stated that the League “stays compulsory as per the Club Licensing criteria.”

“If you look into the Club Licensing criteria it’s mandatory for the Clubs to have junior Teams. After the success of the U-19 I-League, the intention was very much there to move into the junior age categories and we are glad to announce the launch of the U-15 League,” he stated.

Both Stephen Constantine, the National Coach and Scott O’Donell, AIFF Technical Director, welcomed “the step.”

“This is the beginning of us looking at junior age-groups. With the U-15 sorted out – we should be venturing into the U-13 and U-11 from now on,” Constantine told

AIFF Technical Director Scott O’Donell felt the “proposed U15 Youth League is absolutely essential for the development of our young Players in India.”

“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,” he mentioned to

Besides the AIFF Academy, Teams from the I-League, 2nd Division, private Academies would be taking part in the League. Furthermore, for the first time, the Regional Centers of Sports Authority of India would also be locking horns for the same.

Dhar informed that the format of the League will stay the same as the U-19 I-League.

“The zonal phases would be played on a home and away basis while the final phase would be played at a Central venue,” he pronounced. The venue for the final phase is to be zeroed down soon.

“The biggest challenge it to curb age fraud. The honesty and integrity of the Clubs would be at stake,” O’Donell maintained.

Constantine further 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.”

O’Donell stressed on the importance of a “periodisation calendar.”

“A periodisation calendar for Indian Youth Teams is the opposite of what most developed Football Countries calendars look like. In developed Football Countries, the Players may play for 7 or 8 months, rest for two months and have a pre-season/preparation for two months. In India, they play for two months, train and prepare for 8 months and rest for the other two. How can we compete? It makes it very difficult,” the Technical Director opined.

“Some people tell me that it is very difficult in India because we have exams, monsoon season, hot weather etc, but so do other Countries. We have to try and find some solutions to these problems.”

“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,” O’Donell stated.

“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,” he added. “Playing Competitive Football is an essential part of the Young Player’s development.”

Both Constantine and O’Donell stressed on the same as the ‘next step.’

Constantine felt “it should not either begin or end there.”

“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 said in one breath.

O’Donell also spoke on exactly the same lines. “The next step is for all of the State’s to have their own Youth League Competitions (U-14, U-16, U-19) that have enough teams so that the Competition last for a decent amount of time. Then the winners of the respective State Competitions can play against the other winners from the other States,” he pronounced.

“It is obviously going to take some time but I think it can happen. And if it does we (Players, Coaches, Referees, Administrators, etc) would all benefit.”