THE Qatar Football Association’s (QFA) decision to launch an Under-23 League from next season is commendable. When it comes to youth development, U-23 is the senior most category and an exclusive league will definitely ensure they get more playing time and help them mature fast.
Most promising Qatari youngsters have spent a lot of time warming the benches last season and the QFA’s move is aimed at solving this problem. The new initiative will force all clubs to build a full squad of U-23 players and, when it comes to picking the country’s Olympic and senior teams, the selectors will’ve a larger pool to choose from.
One of the main advantages of having an U-23 League is that it provides a platform for players of same age group (19-23) to compete against their peers. It’s a reality that we constantly measure ourselves against our peers and success achieved at a level playing field often gives us more confidence.
With the U-19 and U-16 competitions already in place, there should now be a regular progress of players into the U-23 League so much so that the youth development programme in our country gains a much-needed continuity.
I’ve in the past dwelled on the subject of many players dropping out after they cross 19 years, often disheartened due to lack of opportunities. The University League offered little solace to them and the clubs who signed some talented youngsters seldom gave them playing opportunities.
It may be recalled that Qatar acquired European clubs like KAS Eupen (Belgium) and Cultural y Deportiva Leonesa (Spain) in the past, aimed at alleviating the plight of such Qatari youngsters.
I feel cooler heads and wiser counsel on the part of QFA helped them realise that it’s better to create opportunities at home rather than investing big in European clubs only to arrange a platform for the selected few.
The QFA’s decision to revamp the Second Division League is also aimed at achieving an overall improvement in the country’s second tier football set-up.
A strong foundation is a must if we’ve to have a strong superstructure. The people of our country are looking forward to seeing a strong national team at the 2022 World Cup and I compliment the QFA for taking the right steps towards this direction.