In February 2017, a group of like-minded, passionate men sat together and decided to form an association dedicated to discovering and developing future world-class football players.
It was no accident that the founding members of the new association were heads of the different youth football clubs in the country, namely the Green Archers United FC, Ceres-Negros Youth FC, MSA-Aguila FC, Loyola Meralco FC, Forza FC, JP-Voltez FC, Global FC, Kaya FC, and Stallion Laguna FC, among others.
Thus was born the Youth Football League Association, Inc., a non-profit, non-stock corporation sanctioned by the Philippine Football Federation, the governing body for football in the country.
In only three years, the association, now known simply as YFL or Youth Football League, has grown at a fast pace.
In its first year, it attracted 1,255 aspiring football players and two years later, its membership grew to around 3,000 – and counting.
YFL’s rapid growth can be attributed to the hard work and dedication put in by its officers and members, headed by the equally hard-working and a very capable leader in Miguel Atayde.
Miguel or ‘Mike’ to family and friends, did not play competitive football as a young man (“I played football for fun,”), but draws inspiration from daughter Michela, who played varsity football for De La Salle University in the UAAP, and youngest son Luis, who plays for Negros Ceres Youth Football Club, which Mike used to manage.
But Mike, a La Salle alumnus, said his involvement in youth football goes back some 10 years ago.
“Back then, I was invited by the DLSU Sports Development Foundation as director for football concerns. I later became the foundation’s president for three years,” Mike recalled.
That experience opened Mike’s eyes to the vast potential of youth football, and the need to pattern the Filipinos’ training system to the ones being practiced in football clubs in other countries.
He went on to manage a football club, and later put up the Manila South United with some ‘football parents.’
It was also during that time that the United Football League started its professional league and Mike decided to form a youth football club under the banner of Ceres Negros Ceres FC, where he became its general manager, which in turn, jumpstarted his passion for youth football.
The rest, as they say, is football history.
Mike envisions the YFL to be a launching pad for more aspiring players and more tournaments. This year, the YFL has already started its season with a tournament in March 24 for age-groupers in two separate venues – the Alabang Country Club and the Manila Jockey Club in Carmona, Cavite.
There are also plans to hold YFL age-group tournaments in Negros (Visayas) and Davao (Mindanao), where the winners battle the top teams from the National Capital Region in a ‘Battle of the Champions’ tentatively slated in December.
But beyond all these, Mikes sees youth football clubs, thru the YFL, as a way to embrace all aspiring football players, rich or poor, in a ‘democratic’ community where everybody can be a part of system that could help them become professional football players or future national team members.
“Only under a club system can kids join football without too many requirements,” Mike said. “In YFL, we incorporate as many kids as possible, especially from public schools, in the program. If we can corporate more kids from the public school sector, mas mabilis lalaki ang football sa Pilipinas,” said Mike, who relies on support from sponsors Speed Regalo, Boot Camp, HG Tea Leaf, Globe, and LGR apparel.
He added: “Ultimately, YFL’s goal is to make youth football a viable industry not only for players, but for referees, coaches and technical people by bringing in more football clubs. We would also like to gain more support from the community and local government officials, because I believe that their help are needed to promote the sport in the grassroots level.”
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