First AFC Youth Conference stresses importance of youth development for future of Asian football

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The future of youth football was the main theme of discussion for the Asian national team coaches meeting at the first Asian Football Confederation Youth Conference 2015 this week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The focus of the milestone event, running from Monday October 12 to Wednesday October 14, was on the importance of youth football as a basis for success of Asian football on the world stage.

AFC Acting General Secretary Dato’ Windsor John said in his opening speech to the participants: “Youth football is a key objective for the AFC and we are totally committed to this crucial area. We are responsible for nurturing the stars of the future and in order to do this we need to urgently identify and address a range of issues which might be holding our youth teams back from fulfilling their promise.”

AFC Technical Director Andy Roxburgh said: “We cannot expect to compete with the world’s best tomorrow if we do not focus on our youth teams today. Long-term vision, consistency and strategic player development are vital if our teams are to be successful on a world stage.”

In order for Asia to be able to compete with the world’s top teams the standards across the continent need to improve. In addition to bridging the gap between Asia and the world’s best, it is also vital to make the gaps smaller that exist within Asia. Some of the Asian national teams are showing great progress on the global stage, but for some others competing in the World Cup is still a far-fetched dream. Youth development and national youth coaches have a crucial role in building a bright future for the game in Asia.

The themes for discussion during the AFC Youth Development Conference included Asian teams at world events, player development and trends in top-level football, the academy system and the qualities of a good elite youth coach, presented by experts from Asia and Europe. The participants heard also from AFC representatives on the structure of AFC youth competitions, medical matters and refereeing. A very important aspect of the event was the exchange of views and good practice between participants during discussion groups.

Assistant coach of the U-19 Kuwait national team Tareq H A H M Alkhulaifi said: “This conference has been very interesting. I have been able to discuss important issues with colleagues from other Arab countries but also learn from for example Korea Republic and Japan, who are more advanced than Kuwait.”

The AFC aims to make the Youth Conference a bi-annual event and to follow up on a regular basis with the MAs.

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