Age-verification process dents BFF's youth league prospects
With only two weeks till the start of the BFF U-18 Football League on September 15, Bangladesh Premier league (BPL) clubs are having acute struggles in forming their squads as a majority of their players were ruled out after the age-verification process, meaning clubs had to hold back from starting training in full swing.
All teams in the top-flight BPL must have a youth team in line with club licensing requirements and although BPL clubs have youth teams on paper, there is little more than that in reality.
As such, BPL clubs were assembling youth teams through trials or by hiring players from academies outside the capital, but the age-verification process -- which includes verifying birth certificates and medical tests -- hindered the progress the clubs thought they had made. Coupled with the ineligibility of players from the first and second divisions, clubs are now in a quandary when it comes to assembling squads.
Many have also expressed concerns over the standards of the first-ever youth football league of professional clubs. Precursors to the league were three U-18 tournaments in 2013, 2014 and 2018 but those were crucially missing the age-verification process.
Premier League holders Bashundhara Kings selected 40 players through trials, but only 10 passed the medical test, forcing the club to seek out more players. Abahani found themselves in a similar spot, with only 11 of the 44 players they selected from trials making the cut. Mohammedan managed 17 eligible players from their batch of 45.
Sheikh Jamal and Swadhinata KS banked on the Shamsul Huda Football Academy in Jashore and Kisholoy Football Academy in Rajshahi but they also faced setbacks. 8 of Swadhinata's 24 footballers were ruled out while Sheikh Jamal were yet to receive results for their 23 players.
Muktijoddha Sangsad are yet to take any initiative towards forming a squad despite the club manager writing to the club president in that regard. Meanwhile, Uttar Baridhara Club general secretary Jahangir Alam said that they wanted to start training from September 2 and begin the medical and age-related process from September 4. Saif SC, who sensationally withdrew from the Bangladesh Premier League, will not participate.
Club officials were left frustrated and lamenting the quality of teams they would have to send out.
"We had nothing to do with it. We selected players on the basis of their birth certificates, where their actual ages were not given," Bashundhara Kings technical director BA Jubair Nipu told The Daily Star.
Abahani coach Pranotosh Kumar said: "It is not possible to take all players for testing. We also have to check their quality, so we search for players and check their quality first. However, the 11 players that were selected have been in fitness training."
Mohammedan coach Alfaz Ahmed added: "To be honest, we are not getting quality players and no one can say how the squad will be. I doubt what these players can learn in such a short period of time."
Questioning the bar on players that play in the BPL and second-tier Bangladesh Championship League, Rahmatganj advisory coach Kamal Babu said: "How will new players emerge if professional players are not allowed to play the youth league?"