Wednesday 11 December 2019, 10:07

Youth Development in China moving Forward with newly structured U-19 National Youth Super League

  • Recent Chinese U-19 National Super League (U-19 NYSL) fully funded by FIFA Forward Development Programme

  • Competition concluded on 6 November with Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao U-19 B Team crowned champions

  • Already an increase from 1,066 to 1,649 participating players observed (increase of 35%)

Football in China PR has an astonishing potential with millions of people playing the beautiful game. Related to the physical as well as mental health of the public, it remains of great significance as football can turn into a powerful engine of economic and social development and could one day realise one of China’s biggest dreams: becoming a major competitor in the international football arena.

In close collaboration with FIFA Forward development experts, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) decided to substantially stimulate youth training and development as well as increase the level of domestic youth competitions. Through the restructuring of its youth league, the CFA strived to significantly increase the level of organisation to reach the highest heights of the youth competition in the Asian continent as a first step.

With China's women’s football team being one of the top sides on the international scene, CFA’s focus in youth competitions (boys and girls) has always been the core vision in respect to football development. Thanks to the nationwide U-19 NYSL, it has immensely contributed to CFA achieving its goals focusing on youth football and simultaneously realising the football dream of Chinese people.

With its new structure, the league is now designed to break through the current format to ensure the newly structured youth competition is inclusive whilst ensuring the competitive nature of the championship. Through the efforts consented by respective football stakeholders, a “nationwide youth home and away league competition” was established in close collaboration with 26 host regional member associations (Regional MAs) who assisted CFA in organising the nationwide competition. The special feature of the U-19 NYSL is that youth players can participate in competitive matches on a weekly basis.

By increasing the number of matches, it has already opened the door for young players to prepare themselves to embrace the mechanism and necessities required to participate in professional leagues from an early age.

The U-19 NYSL is an all-inclusive competition which incorporates U-19 teams that participate in CFA’s Super League (CSL) and CFA’s China League 1. In addition, U-19 teams from CFA’s China League 2 and amateur clubs that fulfilled the relevant requirements of the regulations also participated.

On a broader perspective, the project, as expected, has increased the number of matches played by youth teams, created an intensive competitions for youth teams, and more importantly provided more opportunities for academies and amateur club teams which are relatively in less favourable positions from the U-19 teams from the CSL clubs or from the lower division of the Chinese League.

The competition facilitated the growth of young players to develop and to acclimatise themselves to participate in a professional league environment in the near future. In addition, the competition discovered young talents via competition, encouraged more inputs for youth training which indirectly developed Chinese club football, established a competition operation system well mastered by CFA and its Regional MAs and significantly contributed as a training platform to nurture the skills of match officials.

After a total of 654 games played from March to November 2019, the U-19 NYSL finally witnessed its winners in the respective tiers:

  • Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao Team B clinching the title of Tier A (The title won by Guangzhou Evergrande was remarkable as it was a newly promoted team from Tier B in last year’s edition);

  • Shanghai Greenland Shenhua Team B winning Tier B;

  • Fujian Addarmour FC finishing top in Tier C.

Undoubtedly, with the help of this newly structured youth league, the CFA has consolidated a comprehensive league format for youth competition that encompasses a nationwide system, achieved the effect of combining competition with practice and improved the competitive level of every youth team, but also highlighted the importance given by CFA on youth development from a social club and technical football point of view by increasing the participation from an amateur level to produce high-level talents and lastly laid a foundation for professional leagues since players adjust to league mode from an early age.

In addition, match operation standards by the Regional MAs significantly improved as the pool of match officials and match operation officials originating from the local structures were all given the opportunity to nurture their experience in respect to the said competition.

With an increase from 36 to 56 teams observed, a significant leap in respect to participating players involved in the competition from 1066 to 1649 and a total of 654 matches being played, the U-19 NYSL was definitely an overwhelming success. With all this in mind, the U-19 NYSL funded by FIFA definitely facilitated one of the world’s leading economies and most populous countries to shape part of its biggest ambitions, which remains becoming one of the major football competitors in the international scene.

Youth Development in China moving Forward with newly structured U-19 National Youth Super League

Sanjeevan Balasingam, Director FIFA Member Associations Asia and Oceania:

“There is no development without competitions. The organisation of domestic youth football championships in different age groups, combined with proper education, are therefore essential aspects of bringing youth football forward.

"Accordingly, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) have fittingly optimised the FIFA FORWARD 1.0 Programme (USD 2,250,000/-) to fund and establish a newly structured U-19 National Youth Super League (NYSL) with the legacy of having approximatel_y _1600 youth players participating in the said competition.

"The NYSL has given Chinese Football a major impact by substantially stimulating youth development by increasing the level of youth competitions in China and more importantly providing a reliable platform to nurture its future national team players in line with the CFA and the Government’s initiative to become a major competitor on the international football scene."

Qi Jun, competition director of CFA:

“The newly structured CFA U-19 National Youth Super League, for the first time have three tiers of competition in its U-19 age category encompassing a nationwide youth competition. Fully funded by the FIFA Forward programme, the U-19 league not only allowed 56 participating teams from various levels (CSL clubs to amateur clubs) to compete at the highest level, but also served as a springboard for young talents to fully maximise their potential in preparation for future professional competitions."

Louis Liu, General Secretary of CFA:

“The year of 2019 has witnessed the emergence of a newly structured U-19 National Youth Super League (NYSL) organised by the CFA. With three tiers of competitions embracing young talents across the nation, youth football development in China has since made a giant leap 'Forward' with the support of FIFA”.

“The game has elevated itself to new heights with the increase of participating teams, players and total matches compared to the previous season, which demonstrates CFA’s determination in investing in youth development. We want to ensure that the NYSL is the best domestic competition for young players in China. This is the direction CFA will continue to move in and the necessary path we will follow in conjunction with FIFA and its Forward programme in the years ahead."