Chile's youth football gets back into full swing
Forty-three teams took part in under-18 and under-21 competitions
FIFA Forward programme provided support for travel, accommodation and Covid-19 health protocols
Competitions reaffirm Chile’s commitment to football development across the country
Clubs from Arica in the desert north to Puerto Montt in the lush Lake District of the south have been taking part in Chile's Campeonato Nacional de Fútbol Joven which reached its climax with the sub-21 and sub-18 finals in Santiago.
Chile is a country of stunning geographic contrasts and variety. With more than 3,000 kilometres separating the country's northernmost and southernmost professional clubs, the vast distances have made the organisation of nationwide youth competitions logistically challenging in the past.
The Chilean Football Federation (FFCH) and the FIFA Forward Programme are collaborating to implement women’s and youth national competitions. Throughout the years, the Campeonato Nacional de Fútbol Joven has enjoyed a total financial support of more than USD 3 million which has helped to pay for travel, food, accommodation and, additionally for this year’s edition, Covid-19 health protocols for the competing teams.
The competitions had been paralysed altogether since October 2019, firstly because of the civil unrest which swept the country and then, last year, because of the Covid-19 pandemic which prevented teams from even training.
A total of 43 clubs, from the Primera División, Primera B and Segunda División, entered teams in each age group. The competitions, which began with a group stage followed by a knockout contest, took place over three months between September and November and a total of 2,150 players were involved.
"We are very pleased to have Fútbol Joven back after two years of interrupted competitions,” said Pablo Milad, the FFCH President. “It was key for the Chilean Federation to provide opportunities for young players to resume their personal and their football development. Through the FIFA Forward Programme, we are giving Chilean clubs the possibility to participate in our competitions in a cost-effective and safe environment.
The under-21 competition produced a north-south final, with Cobreloa, from the desert region, facing Universidad de Concepción. After a very hard-fought match, “U de Conce” beat Cobreloa 2-0 and won a place in the Copa Libertadores for the age group to be played in 2022.
Meanwhile, the under-18 final pitted Colo-Colo, the only one of Chile’s big three clubs to reach one of the finals, against O'Higgins from Rancagua. O’Higgins scored the only goal of the match in the 49th minute, becoming champions for the second time in this age category. Both finals were played at the Asociación Nacional de Fútbol Profesional (ANFP)’s Complejo Quilín in Santiago.
"It was an enormous satisfaction to score the goal that won the championship, but even more to be back on the pitch together with my team mates after two long years,” said O´Higgins midfielder Alberto Letelier. “We are very thankful to the FFCH and FIFA for providing this opportunity, and I am hopeful that the pandemic will allow us to be back next year to continue our development.”
The FFCH believes the Campeonato Nacional de Fútbol Joven programme will help develop youth football in Chile and create a culture of protection of minors through competition. The FFCH is improving the standard of coaching, infrastructure and facilities around the country as it makes football development a priority at all levels, in the men’s, women’s and youth games.
“Having national competitions at youth levels represents a great effort for the FFCH due to the vast distances that separate our country,” said FFCH Technical Development Manager Jorge Guerrero. “We are aiming to provide our young players life experiences that will prepare them for their future as football players but also as human beings.”
FIFA Forward was introduced in 2016 and is built to provide 360-degree, tailor-made support for football development in each of the 211 member associations and the six confederations and is based on three principles: more investment; more impact and more oversight.
The aim is to improve the way FIFA develop and support football across the globe so that football can reach its potential in every single country, and everyone who wants to take part can do so without barriers.