Shillong, Jun 25: The Meghalaya Football Association announced that the third edition of the Meghalaya State League will commence in October this year, bringing together the top clubs from around the state once again. The affiliated associations will be required to complete their respective leagues by 30th September 2022 in order to be eligible to participate.

At a press conference held at the Shillong Press Club today, the MFA also announced the launch of the new MFA Youth Leagues for U-13, U-15, and U-17 youth clubs, the winners of which will represent the state at All India Football Federation tournaments.

Present at the press conference were Wanshan Kharkrang, tournament director of the MSL; Sunesh Syiem, tournament director of the MYL; Dr Lumbor Mawsor, member of the MSL and MYL organising committees; and Arki Nongrum, assistant tournament director of the MSL and MYL.

The league of champions has been supported by the Government of Meghalaya from the very beginning. The MSL combines the champion clubs from all the tournaments run by affiliated associations in a statewide league the likes of which had never been seen before until the MFA took the initiative in 2017-18.

Through the MSL, the MFA shone a light on teams from across the state and acted as a facilitator for talent identification. It also gave the affiliated associations an opportunity to gain experience of hosting the state’s top league with matches having been held in Garo Hills, Ri-Bhoi, Jaintia Hills and South West Khasi Hills.

To move towards a more professional direction in competition management, the MFA has decided to introduce venue bidding in this season of the MSL where the venues will be selected upon fulfilment of the criteria set by the MFA.

The MSL has also created a financial ecosystem for clubs where they receive a fixed transport subsidy, share of revenue from tickets and prize money. Rs 5 lakh goes to the winners, making it one of the richest leagues in Meghalaya.

After an enforced hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the MFA is as excited as the fans, clubs and players for the third edition of the MSL. Affiliated associations are in the process of holding their own leagues and the MFA will be able to intimate the names of the MSL participating clubs once all of these local leagues conclude.

Meanwhile, the MFA also announced the beginning of another of its long-held dreams – the beginning of a statewide system of Youth Leagues, the creation of which was also delayed by the pandemic.

With Meghalaya having weathered the disruption brought about by Covid-19, youngsters across the state are keen to get back to the sport they love most – football. The new Youth Leagues will be of three age categories: U-13, U-15 and U-17 and will help give Meghalaya a unique football structure in the country.

Meghalaya was the first state in India to organise Golden Baby Leagues for children under 12, a revolutionary project eagerly adopted by the MFA in 2018 with the support of Tata Trusts and the Meghalaya government.

The MFA Youth Leagues, therefore, give the Golden Baby League players an outlet to continue their growth in the sport and will act as a bridge for them to graduate to district leagues, the MSL and then on to the I-League and Indian Super League as well.

Meghalaya has had tremendous success at youth levels, especially in recent years when the state team won the U-17 boys’ Subroto Cup and Sub-Junior National Football Championship (both in 2019). This month, Meghalaya also secured a bronze medal at the Khelo India Youth Games and in 2018 one of the premier clubs in the State, Shillong Lajong FC, became champions of the AIFF’s U-18 Youth League.

The Youth League will be inducted into the CRS and CMS of the AIFF to achieve the goal of professionalising the football ecosystem in the state and reduce the possibility of age fraud.

The MFA aims to keep the conveyor belt of talent going and the logical step is to give players, coaches and scouts the opportunity to identify and mentor young footballers as they progress up the ladder from the Golden Baby Leagues and into the sub-junior and junior levels, thereby giving Meghalaya a surer footing on the national stage.

(File photo of MSL 2019 champions Shillong Lajong)

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