The Under-19 Nationals for the Dr. B.C. Roy Trophy, India's oldest youth football tournament for states, is currently being held in Kolkata. Its format has gone through numerous changes over the years, but the current format with all states playing in a tournament together at one venue seems to be of no use.
We are only into the fourth day of the tournament and just looking at the results there seems to be to many one-sided matches. A lot of 4-0, 5-0 games with the odd one out with even double digit wins. Karnataka has beaten Chhattisgarh 14-0 and Rajasthan 13-0 in their group. The gap in standard is too big, to me this means the format isn't working. The earlier format with zonal qualifiers and final rounds with only eight state teams doesn't work either from a talent spotting perspective. Some regions are very competitive, while in other zones weaker teams can get through with no real competition.
We need to develop a model which takes these things into account and allows youth football, be it at under-16, under-19 and under-21 national level, to develop. It needs to be competitive and the best talent should be easily spotable for the junior national team scouts then at the end of the day it is about the talents.
Maybe having two or three divisions could be worth a try. The top 12 play the nationals, then there is a 'B' and 'C' grade tournament. You have a system of promotion and relegation with the bottom two states going down, while the top two from the next division coming up. This could make it more competitive even at the lowest levels as matches would most likely be more even.
Also the tournaments timing wasn't well chosen. The tournament is being held while the 2010 FIFA World Cup is set to start and the key matches will take place while the World Cup is on in South Africa. Football is a game of passion and these youngsters would be better off if the tournament was held before or after the World Cup as they should get a feel of the experience of a World Cup, even if it is only through a television set. Then some of these boys who are playing the Under-19 Nationals now will end up playing for India. And they would have to try to take us to the World Cup. And we don't want these boys to rather watch the World Cup, then not concentrate on their own matches.
The above is just an idea. I know that for the AIFF funding such a programme could be an issue and also setting the calendar isn't an easy task with board exams and studies being a factor which doesn't allow much manoeuvring. But still something needs to be done.