Shoubhik Mukhopadhyay
AIFF Media Team

In what is a balanced representation of Teams from all over India, the second edition of the U-16 Youth League scheduled to kick-off in September 2016 will feature 50 odd Teams battling for the top honours. This comes after the grand success of the inaugural edition where 39 Teams had participated last season.

Speaking to www.the-aiff.com, Sunando Dhar, CEO, I-League indicated about growing interest amongst the Academies and the Clubs. “That’s the aspect which we are looking for,” he said. “Last season 39 Teams had competed in the Youth League but the number has jumped to 50 this season, which is more than overwhelming,” he added.

AIFF Technical Director Scott O’Donell maintained the magic mark of 50 showed the “positive intent.”

“Reaching the magic figure of 50 in the second year of the U-16 Youth League shows the positive intent among the Clubs and private Academies. They deserve due credit for their untiring effort towards building up the Teams,” he said in a chat to www.the-aiff.com.

Complementing O’Donell, Dhar further stated that “it only reflects the increasing level of the interest among the kids towards the ‘Beautiful game.’ All India Football Federation has always aimed in broad-basing the game and this shows we are on the right track.”

“Playing competitive Football is a big part of a young Player’s development. The U-16 Youth League will give the Players (and Coaches) the opportunity to test themselves against Teams from other States. The first edition of the U-15 Youth League was a huge success and it is great to see even more Teams expressing their interest,” O’Donell opined.

The inaugural edition saw Minerva Academy FC overwhelming Royal Wahingdoh FC in the high-octane final in Goa to conquer the silverware.

The League which has conceptualised as the U-15 Youth League has been rechristened to U-16 Youth League keeping the forthcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 in mind.

Perhaps the most significant aspect stays the participation of three Teams from Kashmir. After LoneStar Kashmir’s success, Jammu and Kashmir Bank and Real Kashmir have also enrolled them for the U-16 Youth League, thus making it to three Teams from the State.

“I can’t recollect three Teams from Kashmir playing in a National Tournament — and this is U-16 Youth League. We welcome Teams from all nook and corners in the League. This League itself is in a League of its own,” Dhar commented.

Another notable feature has been the keenness to participate from Gujarat, the home State of India’s Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi. Sports Authority of Gujarat and Kahaani FC will flaunt the colours of Gujarat in the U-16 Youth League this season.

Besides, the State of Kerala has also strengthened its presence in the league as three more Teams are going to join the contingent along with Kovalam FC from God’s own Country. Prodigy FA, who have passed the Academy Accreditation Test with flying colours will be joined by SEPT FA and Red Star FC.