AFC U-16 Championships Preview: Top 5 Players To Look Out For

In the world of football, this summer will be remembered for one major event. And that is the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. However, in the slightly obscure world of youth football, the summer will be seen as a training ground for the upcoming 2014 AFC U16 Championships held in Bangkok, Thailand this September. Nepal are matched with the likes of North Korea, Kuwait, and the defending champions, Uzbekistan in the group stages. And should they reach the semi-finals, they will qualify for the World Cup (U-17) in Chile in the following year. But what makes a football tournament are the players themselves. And so, join me as we go through the top 5 AFC players to look out for this autumn!

5. Akram Afif (QAT) Qatar – FW

Source: internationalcup.alkass.net

For the 17 year old ASPIRE Academy graduate, there has been a lot of promise around Akram Afif, the Qatari right wing striker (who also plays for the Spanish junior side; Sevilla FC). Born to a footballing father, and a younger brother to Ali Afif (who also plays for Lekhwiya in the Qatar Stars League) it is clear that Akram is in no shortage of inspiration in his household. Incredibly fast paced and solid in his defence, the young man will prove to be a worthy adversary in the upcoming tournament this autumn.

4. Sean Gan Giannelli (MAS) Malaysia – MF

Source: Goal.com

Half Italian-half Malay, the 17 year old youngster is already making waves as a rising talent for Malaysia. Blessed with blistering pace and an eye for goal, his talent was quickly snapped up by Serie D side Atletico Arezzo.  Giannelli is evidently very much loved by his fellow countrypeople and admired by football fans across the world. hailed as the driving forces in the youth wing of Mayalsian football.

3. Gian Mendez (AUS)  – FW

Source: teammendez.com.au/

Source: teammendez.com.au

Born to a sporty family, young Gian Mendez aspires to follow in his father’s footsteps and take up professional football. He was recently selected in the Australian Joey’s U17 side, earning 3 caps and 4 goals, including a matched that sealed a 2-0 victory on his debut.  Mendez currently plays for the Spanish junior division of Valencia CF.

2. Lee Seung-Woo (KOR)  – FW

Source: iamkoream.com

Up north, there has been a significant amount of media hype surrounding one South Korean player. 16 year old Lee Seung-Woo, described as the ‘Korean Messi’ by many Koreans back home, and anticipated to be a new hope for the team. Currently, he plays for the junior division of FC Barcelona (FCB) and as such, has raised several interest among other clubs too. It is rumoured that Manchester United are keeping a close eye on this young lad. It is clear that the future is bright for Lee Seung-Woo, but the main thing that is surrounding everyone’s mind is getting the Korean side into the semi finals to qualify for the World Cup. And there is an air of confidence and anticipation now that the Koreans have their ‘Messi’.

As we do report on all things Nepalese football, it would be rather silly not to put this young man at the forefront of players to watch out for. Here’s number 1….

1. Bimal Gharti Magar (NEP)  – FW

Affectionately dubbed as Nepal’s ‘rising star’, Bimal Gharti Magar shines through as one of the most promising talents in Nepalese football. Bimal made his debut at the SAFF U-16s, and the SAFF Championships (which is an achievement in itself, at his age) where he impressed several key figures in South Asian football. Most notably, the Bangladesh U16 coach, Rene Koster, who later oversaw and recommended two European trials for the youngster. Before all this of course, a junior Nepalese player in Europe was unheard of. So with this,  people who are usually unfamiliar with Nepalese football then start to get a feel for the media frenzy. Currently, Bimal is undergoing trials at RSC Anderlecht’s U16 side in Belgium. But the question on everyone’s mind is, will he perform up to scratch this autumn, catapulting Nepal into its first ever World Cup appearance in Chile? Or will he fold to pressure? Regardless, Bimal Gharti Magar remains one of the top players to watch out for as his side qualifies firmly as the underdogs of the tournament. Don’t count the boy out, because he may have a few surprises in store for us.

Ash Chetri is a contributing writing at GoalNepal.com, for comments and questions you can reach him via twitter, @Ashtopher.