Team India skipper Sunil Chhetri commended the ongoing Reliance Foundation Youth Sports (RFYS) football tournament for identifying young talents at the right time and providing them with a platform to showcase their talents. Chhetri hailed the competitiveness of RFYS, which is in its sixth season, as he earmarked it as the perfect stage that young athletes can make use of to progress professionally.
Chhetri’s Bengaluru FC teammate Sivasakthi Narayanan is an ideal example. The 22-year-old forward played in the RFYS and was even a part of the inaugural edition of the Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) in 2022. He had a standout campaign for the Blues in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 and was also named the captain of the squad for the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers by their head coach Clifford Miranda.
“It (RFYS) is important because we are identifying them (talents) at the right time and age. Also, the tournament is highly competitive. It gives all the young girls and boys the right platform to showcase their skills,” Chhetri said in an interaction recently.
“A lot of youngsters who have done well in the tournament are playing for clubs like Bengaluru FC and others, so I think it’s the right platform. I hope not only this tournament, but a lot of other tournaments also come up because we have so much talent in our nation,” he added.
How has the Reliance Foundation Youth Sports initiative helped in recruiting young talents for Indian football?
ISL players such as Hira Mondal (NorthEast United FC), Makan Winkle Chothe (Hyderabad FC), Gurnaj Singh Grewal (East Bengal FC) along with women’s footballers like Shilky Devi Hemam and Mariyammal Balamurugan are also products of the RFYS ecosystem, having participated in the tournament previously.
Melroy Melwin Assisi, who has netted once in five appearances for ISL debutants Punjab FC this season, is also someone who has played in the RFYS. They have set the blueprint for all the players taking part in the competition at present and showed that a promising pathway exists for them to take the step up in their respective professional careers.
This 23/24 season RFYS is undertaking specific efforts to boost female participation in the competition this season onwards. Equal enrolment of boys and girls is an objective and the introduction of the U-15 girls’ category is a measure to realise the same. Chhetri is pleased with the initiative, saying that it’s high time that women’s football gets a push in the country and they receive adequate opportunities to display their potential at all possible levels.
“It’s great news, kudos. I think it’s high time that girls in our country, who are really talented, are given the right platform to perform. It gives a bigger pool to choose (players) from. It makes sure that everyone comes together; the clubs and the parent body so that we can inculcate as many talents as possible and work in tandem. It will give us a bigger pool to choose from and it’s also going to give us a lot of scope to make all the talents do well in the future,” Chhetri signed off.
The inclusion of professional clubs in the RFYS scouting network marks a significant step towards broadening the pool of talented young athletes. By fostering cooperation and collaboration among stakeholders, the program aims to uncover and nurture hidden potential across diverse regions. Sunil Chhetri, a prominent figure in Indian football, views this development as a positive stride towards collective efforts for the advancement of budding prospects. Ultimately, this synergy between professional clubs and the RFYS promises a brighter future for emerging talents in the world of sports.
Here are some key highlights of the RFYS ongoing football tournaments
The sixth season (2023/24) of the five-month-long tournament (RFYS) is being hosted in 18 championship centres across the country. Amongst these, the matches are set to round off in the centres of Haryana, Meghalaya, Jamshedpur, and Hyderabad on November 11 whereas they are still actively underway in Goa, Kolhapur, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, Mizoram, Chandigarh, Tamil Nadu, Bengaluru, North Kerala, and South Kerala.
RFYS is focusing on enhancing the participation of girls in the tournament. In the 2023/24 season, they will introduce the U-15 age group category in addition to the U-19 category for girls. RFYS also plans to upskill over 1,000 coaches and match officials, including 300 women.
In the upcoming RFYS season, participation is anticipated across various age categories, including U-15 and U-19 for girls, and U-15, U-17, U-19, and U-21 for boys, with over 24,000 athletes representing 1650+ teams. This season is set to host an impressive number of more than 2900 matches.
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