MIZORAM: The Mizoram Football Association and 8one Foundation are pleased to announce the launch of the Young Legends’ League (YLL) — a first-of- its-kind football league which will provide a platform for children aged below 12 years to play competitive football every weekend, paving the way for structured development. The league will also be aided by the AIFF. The 5-a-side league will take place in Champhai, the football-obsessed district of Mizoram which has produced several talented players such as Lalthuammawia Ralte, Lalchhawnkima, Lalruatthara and Robert Lalthlamuana and has been a feeder to different football clubs across the country. The league will feature over 500 matches, with each team playing more than 30 games over a period of 6-8 months, making it the longest football league in India. Every YLL team will have a squad consisting of ten players (including one female player), ensuring they get as much on-field exposure.
Announcing the Young Legends’ League, Lalnghinglova ‘Tetea’ Hmar, Honorary Secretary, Mizoram Football Association, said, “The Young Legends’ League will look to provide competitive football matches to children below 12 years to hone their footballing acumen and skills. We intend to increase the time children spend with the ball so as to inculcate both technical and social skills, which in my opinion is the best way to ensure holistic development of an individual. MFA believes in giving exposure to young talent, steadily helping develop players by giving them a platform to showcase their skills.”
The MFA has signed a 10-year MoU with the 8one Foundation for the Young Legends’ League, which will see both the parties organise YLL in Champhai till 2027.
Varun Achreja, Founder, 8one Foundation, said, “Our aim is to leverage YLL as a community mobilising tool that ensures the involvement of everyone in Champhai to execute this league and contribute to the development of kids through football. The initiative will emphasize on disseminating information related to education, nutrition, health as well as stress on the benefits of working collectively in a team.”
The All India Football Federation, has lauded the work of MFA and 8one Foundation in strategising such a concept. “It is encouraging to see that the Mizoram FA, 8one and Football Solutions are the first to work towards a sustainable and organic league that follow our Baby Leagues concept to maximise competitive engagement through the year. The ideal and philosophy for Champhai to now have long-term, self-sustained and intensive youth calendar will speak for itself 6-8 years from today. The foundations for player development will be unshakable as they are addressing the birth and growth of a never seen before playing culture that only a genuine community-driven effort can deliver. Starting the Pre-league Phase at 3-6 years of age will bring through another invaluable dimension to this structure that the AIFF will aid through customised coach education initiatives”; says Richard Hood, Head of Player Development at the AIFF.
MFA and 8one Foundation have also partnered with ISL club North-East United FC who have prior experience of scouting in Champhai. “Me and my team at NEUFC are extremely happy to support India’s first structured baby league which is taking place in Champhai, Mizoram. Through our various initiatives in Guwahati, Shillong, Imphal and now Champhai, we continue to stand by the commitment we have given to the 8 states” says John Abraham, owner of NEUFC.
The first edition of Young Legends’ League will be held at Chhangphut Ground, Champhai, Mizoram, starting from the 11th November 2017 to 23rd July, 2018. Each match will be played for a duration of 40 – 60 minutes with matches taking place on a weekly basis. Prominent football players from the North-East, especially from Mizoram, have voiced their support for the league, calling it an initiative that will be very beneficial for the development of the game in the country. Renowned Mizo Footballer and a role model for upcoming youngsters, Shylo Malsawmtluanga who is fondly known as “Mama”, said “It is a great opportunity for the youngsters to have this kind of organised Football at a young age. I am happy for the boys and thankful to the MFA and 8one for such an initiative”; Indian National Football Team striker Jeje Lalpheklua, who has gone on to become one of the prominent stars of the country expressed his thoughts about YLL. “This is one of the biggest Football news to come out from my state. I myself did not have proper football education when I was young. If the Mizo kids are trained to play competitive matches from Under 12, I am sure they will have a bright future in Indian football”. The foundation stressed on the fact that the country requires initiatives that provide competitive football from an early age, as is the case in European and South American countries.