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Kuala Lumpur: The First AFC Youth Conference 2015 kicked off in the Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur on Monday, another milestone in the Confederation’s constant efforts to lead youth football across the continent.

The three-day conference aimed to enable an exchange of views, offer proposals, identify trends, collect information and materials and to let proponents of youth football to form a network to take the youth game to a higher level.

AFC Member Associations’ heads of youth committees, technical directors, national academy directors, youth team coaches and youth development staff were some of the participants of the conference.

“On behalf of AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the conference,” said AFC Acting General Secretary Dato’ Windsor John in his conference opening address.

“The real expression of a country’s football is perhaps best provided by the youth teams. The founding fathers of AFC knew this when they introduced the youth competition in 1959 just four years after the confederation was established, thus sowing the seeds for the future. 

“And, today more than 50 years later, this seminar is yet another important milestone in AFC’s constant efforts to lead, inspire and deliver youth football all across our vast continent. This meeting is hugely significant as it attempts to link the present to the future.

“Our deliberations will be closely followed by our stakeholders and sponsors because of the realisation that the future success and hopes of Asian football lie in the outcomes generated through such conferences. This is simply because whilst our energetic youth are the trustees of our future, it is our duty to provide a structured, modern and pragmatic environment in which our youth teams can flourish.

“The development of youth football is one of the key objectives of AFC and we are totally invested in this crucial area. We are responsible and accountable for nurturing the stars of the future and in order to do this we need to urgently identify and address a range of issues, which might be holding our youth teams back from fulfilling their promise.”

Dato’ Windsor urged the participants to be seekers of ideas and not to be afraid to try out creative concepts in collaborative efforts to have a greater chance of success.

“Football has always been a tough business and the current-day demands of playing and winning with flair and imagination can be met only by those football leaders who are ready to innovate and experiment boldly,” he said.

“And, this forward-thinking approach has to necessarily start at the grassroots and youth level. The trends in world football show that the battle is likely to be won or lost here. What this means is we all need to become seekers of ideas, not afraid to try out creative concepts. 

“And, this ideally needs to be a collaborative effort to have a greater chance of success. I call upon you to aim for wider sharing of technical knowledge and standards. Please swap your know-how, experience and best practice in youth football development. 

“Let’s commit to using this forum as an opportunity to exchange ideas and information, improve relations between the member associations, and for enhanced cooperation with the AFC to provide an impetus for our youth football.”

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