The previous editions of the league were held in accordance with the U-16 format, but starting from the forthcoming editions, it will be U-15 tournament
The Pioneer Football League has been producing many star footballers year after year and the latest graduate is the recently concluded Bangladesh Premier League’s local top-scorer, Nabib Newaj Jibon.
Former national star and Abahani Limited legend Monem Munna was also a product of the league.
In memory of Munna, Narayanganj-based club Monem Munna Smriti Sangsad were founded in 2014 and participated in the last two editions of the competition.
Former national midfielder Azmal Hossain Bidyut is the general secretary of the club, and also coached the players of the team having an AFC B-license.
“Pioneer League is the first stairway to becoming a professional footballer. It should not be limited to Dhaka and its surrounding areas but need to spread in all districts across the country. But the main problem during the league has been the venues. If the pitches are not good, how can the players perform well?” said Bidyut, who also played the Pioneer League in 1992 before making his national team debut four years later.
The league however, didn’t take place last year and after nearly 21 months of break, the only age-group (U-15) league under the BFF and sponsored by Dhaka South and North City Corporations is likely to kick off on September 25 with the participation of 70 clubs.
Almost all the club representatives, including Bidyut, joined a discussion meeting with the BFF Pioneer League committee at BFF House in Dhaka Thursday.
Following the meeting, Pioneer League committee chairman Shawkat Ali Khan Jahangir pledged to upgrade the playing grounds ahead of the upcoming edition.
“Personally, I’m not satisfied with the venues. The ground committee visited many venues and primarily selected five for the Pioneer League. There could be two or three more venues. These venues are located between Tongi to Fatullah. We will renovate the venues and make them suitable for the game,” Jahangir told reporters.
During the last edition in the 2016-17 season, 72 teams took part in the preliminary round, out of which 47 will be playing in the upcoming edition with the rest 23 making their bow.
The clubs will be divided into two groups for each venue in the first round.
There were also complaints regarding the actual age of the participating players.
Jahangir said they will be stricter this time around.
“One of the key decisions from the meeting was that we will be stricter than before while identifying the age of the players by a committee during the registration window from September 1-15. If there is any more confusion after that, further checking and examination will be done,” said Jahangir.
The previous editions of the league were held in accordance with the U-16 format, but starting from the forthcoming editions, it will be U-15 tournament.
BFF general secretary Abu Nayeem Shohag explained, “We need national U-15 teams every year because of Saff and AFC’s age-group tournaments. We also need U-15 players for the academy. If we run the Pioneer League in U-15 group, then we can get the most output and pick the best talents for the academy and the national team.”