AIFF U-17 Youth League offers both players, coaches growth opportunities, says Football 4 change coach

NEW DELHI: The Football 4 Change Academy have come a long way from competing locally, to reaching the semi-finals of the AIFF U-17 Youth League, in what was only their second participation in the national level league.

The side hailing from Manipur have played 13 matches in the league, and head coach Lam Lun Mang believes that these have allowed his boys to learn and improve.

“We participated in this league for the first time last year and only played till the zonals. This time, the AIFF launched this tournament on a home and away basis in the Group Stage, and I feel that was a very good initiative,” said Mang.

“We’re dealing with kids here, so when they start playing at this level, they don’t immediately perform. But this format allowed us to play, learn and improve over time, and that helped our boys,” he said. “The more games we play, the better we perform.”

Football 4 Change finished top of Group C in the Group Stage, overcoming opponents like Shillong Lajong, NorthEast United, Aizawl FC, and Harisinga Town Club. They followed that up with a second-placed finish in Group C of the Final Rounds, behind Zinc Football Academy, and a victory over Kerala Blasters (2-0) in the quarter-finals. However, their campaign came to an end in the semi-finals with a 0-4 defeat at the hands of defending champions Classic Football Academy.

“The Group Stage was quite difficult for us, as we faced some very good teams, but our boys did well, and that prepared us better for the final rounds,” said Mang. “The teams in the finals were also very good, of course, but I felt that our side was much more prepared as a unite when we played them, than when we played in the Group Stage.”

The Football 4 Change Academy coach believes that the current format of the league is one that provides the academies to develop their players across various age groups.“This system is very good for academies like us, who are working towards long-term development across the U-13, U-15, and U-17 levels. The development is not only for the players, but also for the young coaches,” he said.

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