'Many countries pay lip-service to youth football' - AFC Tecnical Director Jim Selby

The AFC Technical Director addressed a gathering at the FICCI Goal 2013 convention and spoke about the need for structured youth programmes...
Youth football in India has never really kicked off well despite the numerous initiatives that have been implemented and those that are in limbo. This is exactly the point that Jim Selby, Technical Director of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) made at FICCI's Goal 2013 football convention on Thursday at Delhi.

"Many countries pay lip service to youth football. They all say it's important, it's valuable and needed for senior football in the future. But when the cost and investments into youth football are mentioned they do not represent the same enthusiasm showing an 'important but not that important' attitude," said Selby.

The AFC official pointed out the examples of Australia, Japan, and Korea who are all reaping the benefits of systemised youth development programs. "They have finished as the top 4 in Asia. There is a flow from youth football to senior football. It's investing in quality to producing result in the end which is high level performance football at World Cup level," Jim explained.

Selby drew an analogy between a player's development to that of a plant. "If you have a seed, you plant it, nurture it and you harvest the crop at the end. If your investment initially isn’t good then so is your crop," said the AFC Technical Director.

The former Technical Director of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) then showed a video of the Under-17 Spanish national side to explain how the senior team were in fact continuing the style of play in which they grew up with.

"The Spanish team play a lot of youth team football for both club and country before they make the step up to the senior team. It doesn’t happen by chance produce such senior players in the highest level in the world without structured youth and grassroots players. The style developed by the youth teams are carried onto the senior team," said Selby.

The official stressed that in order to be champions, players have to behave like champions.

"They have order and talent. Some of the associations I have spoken to tell me that they have talented players. There are talented players all over the world. How they are nurtured to meet international standards and requirements are completely different," revealed Jim. 

Selby took the time to put forward some numbers with respect to the youth development program implemented in Germany.

"49 academies, 800 talented players within those particular areas, 366 bases for identifying these, 40,000 teams, 600,000 players, 14,000 scouted opportunities and a 1000 coaches to look after them. If you haven’t got that then why should you expect to be better than them?" he questioned.

Selby emphasized the need for adapting to the changing nature of the game both technically and from a business point of view. He also called for a wider range for scouting as he revealed that talented players are not necessarily produced at structured academies and programs organized by the federation. 

The AFC Technical Director termed 2013 as AFC Grassroots Football Year wherein there will be an increased focus on development of players from youth to senior level. "We need to be responsible for our youth programmes. If nothing changes, nothing changes," signed off Selby.


Follow Srinivasan Mohan on 

How do you stay up with football when on the move? With http://m.goal.com –your best source for mobile coverage of the beautiful game.