The Reliance Foundation Youth Champs (RYFC) academy product Muhammed Nemil has had a season to remember making a mark in the lower divisions in Spain. The 19-year-old has made a name for himself in his team FE Grama, with consistent performances and goals for the Barcelona based side.
It is widely acknowledged that a good platform from the grassroots level is the key that makes Europe a powerhouse in football right now. It reflects in their professionalism, quality and mental aspect of the game. It is this factor that Indian football has been missing out on for so long. Searching for talent, moulding them into better players right from a young age with the help of good infrastructure, have been the secret behind the domination of European football. Thankfully, efforts are being made to invest more into the grassroots in India. Talents are being scouted to catch them young and provide proper training facilities so that they become established footballers by the time they start their professional careers.
One such story is of Muhammed Nemil Valiyattil from Kozhikode, Kerala, who was signed by the Reliance Foundation Young Champs in 2015 when he was 13 years old. The midfielder would go on to become one of the best players in the team. He scored 45 goals and made 31 assists in just three seasons. A consistent display of quality saw him win the best player award in the 2018 U17 Subroto Cup, a prestigious international tournament that has seen many Indian greats like Bhaichung Bhutia (Best Player of the 1992 edition) take part in.
His antics didn’t go unnoticed as he took part in two separate 3-month training stints with reputable Spanish academy Marcet. In the 2019/20 season, he was adjudged as the player of the tournament in the Vedanta Youth Cup in Goa. The training stints in Spain bore fruits as he was signed by Tercera Division (then fourth division) club FE Grama of Spain. Before the start of the 2020/21 season, he signed for FC Goa which was a huge step forward for the youngster. He was sent on loan to FE Grama soon after joining Goa.
SPANISH LEAGUE STRUCTURE:
Spain has one of the well organised and extensive football systems in Europe. Despite having a population of around 47 million, which is 27 times lesser than that of India’s, a robust interlinked football network is present in Spain, with over 500 clubs ranging from entirely professional to amateur leagues. Here we take a look at the way the Spanish leagues are set up.
The system is set to have a new look from the upcoming season, especially in the lower divisions, as there is a slight revamp in the organisation of the leagues.
Till the 2020/21 season:
The first four divisions were organised by the Federation of Spanish football, while divisions lower than that were organised by regional federations.
Tier 1 – Primera División, which is popularly known all over the world as the ‘La Liga’ (20 teams)
Tier 2 – Segunda División, also known as ‘La Liga 2’ (22 teams)
Tier 3 – Segunda División “B” (102 teams, competed among various groups divided by regions)
Tier 4 – Tercera División (397 teams, competed among various groups divided by regions)
Tier 5 and below – Regional divisions, the total number varying with each region.
Even though tier 3 and tier 4 were also played in various regions, they were not called regional divisions as the central Spanish football federation organised those leagues. From tier 5, the leagues were organised by separate regional federations.
Of all these divisions, only the first two tiers are entirely professional.
Changes made for the 2021/22 (upcoming) season onwards:
The top two divisions remain unchanged.
The Tercera Division, the former 4th division, is now downgraded to the 5th division and is renamed as Tercera Division RFEF.
The Regional divisions start from the 6th tier.
A fruitful season for Nemil in FE Grama:
In the 2020/21 season, Nemil was on loan to Barcelona-based FE Grama, which played in the Tercera Division (then 4th division). He mostly turned out for their Juvenil A team (U19). The Juvenil A team of FE Grama competes in the Liga Nacional, which is the second division of Spanish youth football. He was usually played as a wide midfielder owing to his technical prowess and accuracy with both feet. He was able to establish himself in the team and became an important player for them.
“Nemil is an outgoing person, a player who lives for football, with maximum dedication and enormous enthusiasm”, his coach at Juvenil A, Manu Peláez, told IFTWC.
A former player himself, Peláez knows a good player when one comes by. He has played for clubs like UDA Gramanet and CF Damm with good experience in the Juvenil Division de Honor, the top division of Spanish youth football. It is the league which features top talents in Spain and from which many La Liga clubs recruit young players. Returning to youth football, this time as a coach, Paláez takes charge of the Juvenil A side of FE Grama.
In the last season, the Juvenil A did well to retain their status in the Liga Nacional. Nemil finished as the top scorer for the team in the second phase of the season.
“Committed to each training session, Nemil stands out for his strength. Despite not being a large player, his strong lower body makes him a powerful player. His ease of scoring, good drive, shooting ability with both feet, a good jump and heading ability make him a constant threat for the opposing defence.”
Very soon, he was among the goals as Nemil finished the season with seven goals in 11 games in the Liga Nacional. It included two hat-tricks, the second coming on the final matchday.
In the meantime, he was also training with the senior team, which played in the Tercera Division. He made his debut in the Tercera Division against CP San Cristobal, coming on as a substitute in the 86th minute, becoming one of the few Indians who have played in that stage and probably the youngest.
He was known for his goalscoring prowess right from his RYFC days, but the time he spent in Spain also helped him to improve in the tactical aspect of the game.
“He understands the game very well, especially in the offensive phase. He is good at evading markers, associates well with teammates and is skilful in 1v1 situations.
“We are looking at a promising player of Indian football”, says Peláez.
It was a season to remember for the 19-year-old who will be eager to put his Spanish experience to good use to improve as a player. It shows how much a solid foundation can be influential in the progress and development of a young player. Following the Kerala youngster, Indian football can see more such talents being shaped by providing quality resources and showing them the right path to flourish as a footballer. Nemil will be looking forward to another season at FE Grama if it is made possible. Whether he extends his stay in Spain or comes back to FC Goa, we can expect big things to come from the Kerala midfielder in the future.
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