At the ongoing 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) used the opportunity to hold a one-day workshop where they took journalists through their plans for global development, women’s football and the Talent development scheme.
The latter among others caught the attention of this reporter, central to FIFA's vision to indentify and development talent is a national centre for execellency but also expanding the teams that play at he U17 World Cups for both boys and boys.
Abdul Faisal Chibsah, a FIFA High-Performance Specialist, revealed during the workshop that FIFA has decided to increase the number of teams in the U17 World Cup to 48 for boys and 24 for girls.
"The decision to expand the World Cup to 48 teams is important because any boy or girl, Chibsah told Pulse Sports after a one-way workshop in Ivory Coast Abidjan.
"Regardless of the year they were born, should have an opportunity to compete at this level of international tournament."
Intially the boys and girls U17 World Cup was 24 and 16 countries respectively played every after two years.
The boys U20 World Cup has will be mantained at 24 teams while the girls will be expanded from 16 to 24 and played every after two years like it has been
This expansion is seen not just as a move to increase participation but as a foundational step in nurturing young talents.Reflecting on the correlation between early international exposure and later success
"We have seen from the analysis that the majority of the players that succeed at the senior level had the experience of international football at 15 years in a FIFA tournament." This observation underpins FIFA's belief in the importance of early, high-level competition.
Addressing potential challenges such as infrastructure and holistic development, Chibsah revealed FIFA's plans for a national academy or centre of excellence.
"It is not going to be one country only; it is going to be a case of co-hosting," he says, highlighting a pragmatic approach to resource and facility management.
The proposed academies aren't just about football skills though: "If you want to call a centre of excellence an academy, you have to have the three things: the sporting education, the academic education"
"And you also have to have character development, why? not every kid will make it to professional football."
With a target to implement these initiatives by 2027, FIFA is committed to safeguarding young players. "Safe guarding these young players is number one because our main priority as leaders of the game is to create a safe environment for the kids to play and have fun," Chibsah stresses.
Emphasizing the importance of foundational skills, Chibsah compares football coaching to academic education. "Coaching kids at this level should not be difficult, not different from our academic education," he remarks, pointing out the necessity of instilling fundamental skills at a young age.
The FIFA Forward Programs have already laid the groundwork for these schools of excellence and the plan now is to enhance it with modern software and technology, staffed by educated and empowered professionals.