Odogwu In Box 18: NPFL Youth League: A step In The Right Direction, But...

Odogwu In Box 18: NPFL Youth League: A step In The Right Direction, But...
Odogwu In Box 18: NPFL Youth League: A step In The Right Direction, But...


The Leadership of the NPFL recently instituted an U17 Youth League for all the 20 Premier league clubs in the country.

The responsibility of discovering the new stars for the league and possibly markets for the foreign clubs was vested on the former Chairman of Abia Warriors Pastor Emeka Inyama, himself a grassroots football proponent.

The preliminaries of the tournament was between 1st to 5th February 2024, with the 20 NPFL Clubs zoned on regional basis for preliminary qualifying matches in five centres. The centres were, Lafia for clubs in North Central, Kaduna  hosted clubs from the Northwest and Northeast, Ekiti hosted clubs from Southwest clubs while Enugu  hosted  Southeast clubs and Port Harcourt was for South South clubs.

At the end of the preliminaries, Rivers United emerged From Porthacourt Centre, Remo stars from Ekiti centre, Katsina United from Kaduna Centre, Plateau United from Lafia Centre and Rangers International from Enugu Centre. 

The Chairman said the tournament would be used to redefine the face of the NPFL. He was quoted as saying "we want to get it right at building a stronger NPFL through setting up a proper Youth League culture which is the future of elite leagues all over the world. This league is the future of the Nigeria Premier League, that is the reason why we must get it right at this first edition. This tournament will be the fulcrum where the NPFL will revolves in future. It will be a rallying point for  teams in the country. So, we must get it right". The final stage of the League will hold in Benin City from February 24the to 2nd March.

Nice as the initiative of the league maybe, sustainability and the political will power to get the right things done remains the undermining factors.  It may interest us to know that the registration of youth players has been a compulsory requirement for the registration of any team in the NPFL. We are also aware that before now, there was the NPFL U.15 which was jointly sponsored with Laliga. The issue on that is how many players transisted from the programme to the league proper. How many of the NPFL teams have an existing youth programme. What we have is a situation where teams contract existing Academies in their localities to represent them in such NPFL tournaments. Virtually all the teams does not have database of the players they used in those tournaments. The issue of age cheats is as endemic as Nigeria itself.  70 percents of the players that took part in such tournaments are very much above the stipulated age. Box 18 is very much aware of players who failed the U17 MIR test last year, but took part in the selection processes of the on going league. The quest to win is the major bane of football developmental programmes in the country. 

To achieve the intention behind the establishment of the youth league, there must be the political will power to do the right thing at the right time. The youth league should not be a one off thing, it should be played as a regular league. likely on Weekends or midweeks. This will ensure that teams have an existing youth teams on ground, with proper programmes. This will also enable the teams take part adequately in the transfer of the youth players to clubs outside the shores of the country.

The youth league is surely a good one in the right direction, only if those administrators will allow it to succeed.

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