The second edition of the Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) has kicked-off with over 50 teams competing for national and international honours. Given the success of RFDL last year, the tournament is set to be India’s largest and most inclusive U-21 youth tournament comprising of teams across nine regions in India from Indian Super League (ISL), I-League division I & II and independent academies nominated by the state football associations.
The top four teams from RFDL will qualify to take on selected Premier League clubs and South Africa’s PSL youth teams in the annual Premier League Next Generation, in joint collaboration with Reliance Foundation, to be played later this year. The exposure and competitiveness of the Next Generation Cup is aimed at developing the elite youth football talent in India.
A Reliance Foundation Spokesperson, said: “The Reliance Foundation Development League was conceptualised to provide young footballers a competitive platform to test themselves against the best players in their age group. With its success, we have now expanded the league across the country and it is heartening to see the participation of so many teams across various leagues and academies. This season is a testament to Reliance Foundation’s continued efforts towards moving forward as an inclusive force focusing on the development of Indian football. Through the Reliance Foundation Development League and with the support of our partners – Premier League, we remain committed towards growing the entire football ecosystem in India and providing the maximum exposure to young Indian talent to improve their skills and showcase their potential.”
The league will be played across three phases – Regional Qualifiers, National Group Stage and National Championship. The regional qualifiers will see over 250 matches being played, out of which the top 20 teams will go to the National Group Stage. The top 4 teams from the group stage will compete for the coveted RFDL National Championship. Players born on or after January 1, 2002 will be eligible to participate in the league.
Each team has been granted permission to include up to 5 players born on or after January 1, 2000, in their squads. No more than three such players will be permitted to be part of the playing XI at all times. The extensive schedule will also provide youngsters in this age group more game time and experience, leading to their overall growth as athletes and footballers.
The first-ever RFDL saw seven Indian Super League clubs and Reliance Foundation Young Champs compete for the top honours, with the top two teams getting a chance to participate in the Next Generation Cup.
Bengaluru FC, captain by Namgyal Bhutia, who is now a member of the Bengaluru FC senior team, emerged winners of the inaugural RFDL season after finishing the campaign unbeaten. BFC’s squad also had names like Sivasakthi Narayanan, goalkeeper Sharon Padattil, and midfielder Damaitphang Lyngdoh who are part of the first team in the ongoing ISL season.
Meanwhile Kerala Blasters FC boasted some star-studded names with first team players such as Ayush Adhikari, Sanjeev Stalin, Bijoy Varghese and Vincy Barretto featuring in the RFDL after finishing as runners-up with KBFC in the ISL 2021-22 season.
Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters FC, participated in the Next Generation Cup where the young Indian boys impressed the academy coaches and scouts of the Premier League clubs.
Both sides finished fourth in their respective groups of the Next Generation Cup while fighting hard against some of the best youth teams in England.
RFDL is part of Reliance Foundation’s continued commitment towards supporting young athletes in India to evolve their skills by providing them more opportunities, world-class infrastructure, sports science expertise and coaching, contributing to the growth of Indian sports.