Set up with the support of the FIFA Forward Programme
3,000 elite male and female footballers going head-to-head every weekend
Focused on helping players develop and progress to topflight competition
The Central Youth League was set up by the Polish Football Federation (PZPN) in response to a need to streamline the country’s youth football competition levels and provide the next generation of talent with opportunities to compete against one another. The project has benefited from the support of the FIFA Forward 1.0 and 2.0 Programmes, receiving a total of $4.25 million in funding. The league, which includes men’s and women’s U-15, U-17 and U-19 categories, has a clear objective, as PZPN Director of Football, Marcin Dorna, explains: "These competitions are very important for us. The league was created because we want to be adaptable to the level of our youth players. We have a big country and there were significant differences between the levels of the players and the teams in each district. That’s why we decided to create one level of the league for the best teams."
"You have the chance to develop when you’re playing football, when you’re training around other good players. And the second key element is being able to compete against other good players. That’s why we took this step and we’re very appreciative of the support we’ve had from FIFA." With around 80 men's teams playing in the Central Youth League, as well as 68 in the women's league, close to 3,000 elite players go up against each other every weekend. And, according to Dorna, the scheme is already starting to pay dividends, "It’s a place and an environment that works to develop the players. It was started a few years ago and right now, we have a lot of former Central Youth League players competing in our top league (PKO Ekstraklasa), as well as in the national teams." Kacper Kozłowski is a prime example of just that. Born in 2003, the midfielder was the youngest player to compete in the last UEFA European Championship, an achievement that, aside from training and working hard for his club, can also be attributed to the many Central Youth League matches he had the chance to play in.
"We’ve many players who we can describe as future national team players. For the national coach, it’s an opportunity to go to the games and observe three or five players in each team competing against each other at a good level. That’s key in making the step up to the national teams in the future," says Dorna. The PZPN aim to continue working to further develop the project over the coming years, with the focus on implementing improvements in terms of infrastructure and organisation, as well as looking at playing styles, always with the ultimate goal of ensuring the players are able to compete under optimum conditions.
“We still have a lot to do to create the correct conditions from an infrastructure and organisational point of view. But the different leagues are also like the pyramid of the competition in Poland. We also have a lot of meetings with the team coaches, encouraging them to play proactively and to propose the kind of play that will help their players develop as individuals rather than just as a team.” “I think it’s very important when you can cooperate with people, with an organisation with a strong sense of responsibility, that’s interested in the development of young players. We hope this kind of cooperation will be really good in the future too,” concludes Marcin Dorna, highlighting the importance of programmes such as FIFA Forward in helping young players reach their maximum potential.
Find out about FIFA Forward's background and proposition.
The core principles
Find out more about the FIFA Forward core principles.
Explore the history of the FIFA Forward Programme since the first edition in 2016.