The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) reaffirmed its commitment to grooming the stars of the future on Tuesday morning at the 4th AFC Youth Panel meeting for the 2022/23 term.
The key thrust will come from the implementation of updates to the AFC Elite Youth Scheme regulations in 2024, which will further improve talent identification structures and youth development standards across the Continent.
The plans were shared at the first physical AFC Youth Panel meeting since November 2019, which was held at the InterContinental Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. Chaired by the AFC Technical Director Andy Roxburgh, nine Panel members from seven Member Associations (MAs) were in attendance, along with Chairperson of the AFC Professional Football Task Force, Park Ji-sung.
Roxburgh noted that the revamped regulations – the current edition dates back to 2021 – will prioritise the youth programmes of MAs, with academy grading no longer a pre-requisite for membership.
Other updates include revisions to the grading criteria, modifications to the evaluation process, defining the concept of academies, mandating the inclusion of child protection policies and the introduction of guiding principles.
He said: “When we started this, we were very much about the academies and less about the MAs and now, we have come the other way round; the focus needs to be on the MAs first, with the academies as the add-ons. Membership gives credibility to a MA’s youth programmes and stimulates further development, while it also has a long term impact on national teams and professional clubs.
“If you don’t invest in youth development, you are leaving your success to chance (when it comes to nurturing talent).”
Launched at the end of 2017, the AFC Elite Youth Scheme recognises, supports and endorses MAs for their efforts in elite youth football, at three current tiers: one, two and three star.
As part of expansion plans for 2024, the AFC Elite Youth Scheme aims to increase its membership of both endorsed MAs and endorsed academies, which currently stand at 22 and 34 respectively, while more MAs will also be encouraged to upgrade their membership.
Over the course of the 90 minutes, other topics such as the introduction of the A and B Youth Diplomas and current evaluation guidelines were also discussed. Panel members were also briefed on various upcoming events, including the current FIFA U-17 World Cup Indonesia 2023, the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™, the AFC U23 Asian Cup™ Qatar 2024, the AFC National Coaches Conference (2024) and the AFC Elite Youth Online Session (May 2024).
The AFC Youth Panel meeting will be followed by the 4th AFC Youth Conference, which will take place later in the afternoon and run until Thursday evening.