The winner’s face was full of joy. The players seemed to have the world in their arms. The players who narrowly missed out on the championship looked as bright. They gained satisfaction as they gained skills and experience by participating in high-quality competitions. The future of Asian soccer was contained in the warm hearts of the losers, who gave them sincere applause and gave them a big hug.
The site of the Asian Youth Football Festival 2023 (Asian Youth Football Festival 2023 in Vietnam), which opened at Nova World K-town in Pantiet, a resort city near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on the 15th and lasted for two nights and three days, was hot with passion and determination throughout the tournament. More than 400 people from 46 prestigious youth soccer clubs selected from six countries, including Korea, Vietnam, Australia, Thailand, Malaysia and Hong Kong, participated in the competition for a total of four championship trophies, including under 9 years old (U-9), under 10 years old (U-10), under 11 years old (U-11), and under 12 years old (U-12).
In the tournament, which was divided into the winner (Baekho League) and the loser (Mangho League) after the group stage, the victory of the Baekho League went to AT SPU (Malaysia) in the U-12 category, Incheon United Youth (U-11), UK (U-10), and Composition PEC (U-9). In the Maengho League, Suwon Samsung Youth (U-11), Nine Nine (U-10), and Fuunjuan (U-9·Vietnam) were honored as the first winning team, as well as the Seoul Union Team winning the U-12 category.
It was impressive that Suwon Samsung’s “sister,” who finished at the bottom of the K League 1 this season and experienced the pain of being demoted to the second division (K League 2) for the first time since its foundation, embraced the trophy at the international competition and gave hope for the club’s future.
Many promising players with sparkling skills stood out as the venue was to discover the next generation of protagonists who will lead Asian soccer. As the event was attended by top-class players from around the world, the atmosphere inside and outside the stadium was high. It was impressive to see players from all over Asia building friendships by hugging and shaking hands regardless of the outcome of the match immediately after the closing whistle.
Facilities and environment were also praised. Participants of the upcoming event stayed at K-town, which was established by Nova World, a leading hotel and resort chain in Vietnam, as a sports resort. Opened last month, the venue is equipped with a variety of sports facilities including a four-sided natural turf soccer field, a tennis court and a basketball court. It was also well received with auxiliary facilities including a swimming pool, a fitness center, a conference room and a large-scale restaurant.
Double rooms in the form of bungalows, Korean meals provided by professional chefs, and triple safety systems also drew “satisfactory” evaluations from participants. Edgar, a Brazilian striker from Daegu FC, a professional soccer team who visited this place with his son who participated in the tournament, praised it, saying, “I think it will be good for professional teams to use it as a place for off-season training.”
Kim Hyung-pil, head coach of the Honam powerhouse Nine Nine FC, who won the U-10 in the Maengho League and ranked third in the U-11 category, said, “We have not only improved the condition of the players by training in warm regions, but also developed experience and confidence through confrontations with strong teams that won last year’s national competition and various overseas teams,” adding, “I hope this competition will grow into a more prestigious competition.”
The event was hosted by the Korea Youth Football Association and sponsored by the JoongAng Ilbo. “Thanks to the participation of a large number of high-quality teams, I was satisfied with both the overall progress and results,” said Shin Seung-cheol, vice chairman of KYFA. “We will actively improve some problems that have emerged in the upcoming event to further enhance the level of completion of the event.” “We will expand the scale and grow it into a prestigious competition that is envied by promising soccer players in many Asian countries.”