FIFA is launching a global football development plan to support youth domestic leagues and to help more young players fulfil their potential, with a pilot project kicking off in Malawi on Saturday.
The project follows a decision by FIFA to promote male and female youth football competitions as a key priority during the financial cycle 2015-2018, with the aim of boosting participation and ensuring a stronger pathway from grassroots to elite-level football for young players.
“The lack of well-established national youth competitions is a key issue for a majority of our member associations. Through this initiative, we aim to support member associations to help them close the gap between grassroots and youth football by means of long-term youth competitions,” said Jürg Nepfer, FIFA Head of Education and Technical Development.
“We are starting this project in Malawi as they have already implemented some very successful grassroots courses and defined a clear technical development policy for the coming years. We expect to implement similar initiatives in other member associations which present a well-defined grassroots structure but lack proper competitions at youth level.”
The match between Chiradzulu and Machinga at Chiradzulu’s Community Ground will mark the start of Malawi’s new youth league, comprising three regional competitions for under-15 players and 34 teams from all of the country's 28 districts.
For the global youth league programme, FIFA will contribute to each project with technical and marketing advice, education for coaches and referees, equipment for training and competition, and an overall budget of USD 15 million until 2018.
Malawi are currently 101 in the FIFA World Ranking and, until now, no regular youth domestic league was in place under the umbrella of the Football Association of Malawi.
"We are very happy that Malawi is one of the pilot projects for this programme. This league will expose 360 players to competitive football at a tender age and will act as a bridge to ensure that no talent is lost between the grassroots projects and the FAM FMB under-20 League. We really hope this programme will turn out to be historic in the long-term success of our national teams," said FAM President Walter Nyamilandu Manda
"Moreover, the programme provides a high-level coaching platform to 36 qualified coaches, most of whom were idle due to a lack of teams to coach - and fulfills a long overdue dream of taking organised refereeing to the youth competitions."