The 4th Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Youth Conference came to an end on Thursday following an enriching two-and-a-half day programme that had a laser-sharp focus on elite youth development in Asian football.
Four years on from the previous edition, the highly-anticipated event kicked off on Tuesday afternoon at the InterContinental Hotel in Kuala Lumpur and was attended by 90 delegates from across 39 Member Associations (MAs), which comprised Technical Directors, Heads of Youth Football and National Youth Team Head Coaches, among others. Members from the AFC Youth Panel and AFC Technical Study Group were also present.
In his opening remarks, AFC Deputy General Secretary, Competitions and Football, Shin Man Gil said: “It is indeed timely that we are gathered for this Youth Conference, and it is essential for us to reflect on recent developments and the progress that have been made, while at the same time also ponder on what needs to be done as we move forward.
“I am confident that through the unity of the Asian football family, our youth will continue to dominate the biggest stages across the globe in the years and decades to come as envisaged through the AFC’s Vision and Mission.”
Underlining the AFC’s unwavering commitment to nurturing future stars, the spotlight was firmly on elite youth football – defined as a transitional stage in development where football is played by talented teenagers – and the tone was set on the first day by AFC Technical Director, Andy Roxburgh, in his keynote presentation titled “Guiding the Best”.
The AFC Technical Director reinforced the notion that in order to allow top talents to flourish, all aspects of an elite youth football environment need to be the best, ranging from coaching to facilities, scouting, football technology and more.
He also discussed various factors that underpin success, challenges prevalent in Asia, long-term actions that can be taken as well as the importance of developing not just a player’s talent but also their character and mentality, both on and off the pitch.
The second day began with insightful technical analysis sessions of the AFC U17 Asian Cup™ Thailand 2023, the AFC U20 Asian Cup™ Uzbekistan 2023 and the FIFA U-20 World Cup Argentina 2023, which were presented by AFC Principal Coaching Consultant Wim Koevermans, Japan Football Association Technical Director Takeshi Ono and FIFA High Performance Specialist (Global Football Development) Kelly Cross.
A range of topics were then discussed during a Youth National Coaches Forum that was moderated by AFC Communications Consultant (Technical), Graham Turner, and involved men’s national team head coaches Ishfaq Ahmed (India U17), Ahmed Mubarak Al ‘Alawi (Oman U19) and Ayder Kurbaev (Uzbekistan U18).
Further wisdom was imparted by Asian legend and Chairperson of the AFC Professional Football Task Force, Park Ji-sung, during an in-depth interview with Turner where the Korea Republic centurion shared learning experiences from his illustrious playing career.
Throughout the Conference, participants were provided with opportunities to debate the topics raised and exchange insights, while they also received updates on the AFC Elite Youth Scheme and AFC Elite Youth Diplomas.
A session on Benchmark Academies was followed by an overall review of the Conference on the final day before it came to a conclusion.
Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI), Head of Coaching Education, Yeyen Tumena, enjoyed the all-encompassing nature of the presentations and looked forward to applying his takeaways to further drive development back home.
“We have already started to enhance our coach education pathways for domestic competitions, which afford us more opportunities than before to educate local coaches and allow them to apply what they have learned from our courses to every level of youth competition,” he said, noting that being part of the AFC Coaching Convention allows the PSSI to tailor courses to local needs.
“The AFC has provided the PSSI with a lot of support and this AFC Youth Conference is very helpful in letting us know where we stand and what we can improve.”