Muhammed Nemil out to conquer after an extraordinary footballing odyssey

From the streets of his hometown Calicut to playing in Spain to joining Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) side FC Goa, 19-year-old Muhammed Nemil has come a long way. His footballing talents were recognized quite early and in 2015, he was scouted by Navi Mumbai-based Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) academy in Kozhikode as part of a nationwide hunt.

A long way from home in Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra at the young age of 13, Nemil took his time to overcome the language barrier. Once accustomed to his new surroundings, Nemil started doing what he did best. Though diminutive, he could strike the ball with power and accuracy with both feet. He also had excellent control over the ball during one-on-one situations, and could find his teammates with pinpoint accuracy.

Head of youth at RFYC, Sandro Salami, speaks highly of the teenager. “Nemil has a great drive on the pitch and loves to compete. He leads by example in the games. He really stands out in his ability to carry the ball at very high speed and his agility on and off the ball. Together with his great running technique, it makes him very difficult to track for a defender.”

Nemil’s youth career started slowly with just three goals in 28 games during the 2016-17 season. However, once the youngster found his groove, he scored 17 goals and provided 16 assists over 47 matches the next season. Then followed 25 goals and 15 assists in 53 games. His strong performances earned him trips to England in 2016 and Japan in 2018, where the RFYC boys took on the local teams there. This further aided his development as a player. 

Nemil kept going from strength to strength. In 2018, he was named the Mumbai District Football Association (MDFA) League Super Division’s best midfielder. He was also adjudged Player of the Tournament in the U-17 Subroto Cup. Nemil won the Vedanta Youth Cup (hosted by Goa) with his RFYC team during the 2019-20 season as he scored the winner in the final against Bengaluru FC on his way to bagging another Player-of-the-Tournament award.

“In the final of the Vedanta Youth Cup, he came on as a substitute in the second half and made an immediate impact with his individual efforts to score the winner. In a final game situation against a very competitive side, he produced one of his best performances. It shows he is more than just a good player. He possesses something more important than talent, which is the instinct to be in the right place at the right time. This is essential to be a successful professional footballer,” says former Hero ISL star Arata Izumi, who is currently coach at RFYC.

In March 2019, his hard work over the last four years brought him greater dividends in the form of a stint with Marcet High-Performance academy in Spain. Nemil spent two separate stints of three months at the academy and after making waves there, he was picked up by Barcelona-based third division club FE Grama for their Under-19 squad.

Nemil’s two-footed ability made him a goal-scoring threat in Spain, according to RFYC coach Bhavin Pamnani. “In Spain, a country known for technical players, he stood out because of his ability to use both his feet effectively,” says Pamnani.

The coach adds: “It made it very difficult for players to defend him. Coupled with the short run-up Nemil requires for his shooting, he is a constant threat in front of goal. This has been one of the key reasons why he has been favoured to play as a striker at his current club in Spain.”

Then ahead of the Hero ISL 2020-21 season, FC Goa succeeded in bringing him on board and another important and exciting chapter in Nemil’s life began. Ravi Puskar, Director of Football at FC Goa, reveals what led to the signing of Nemil. “For a player of his age, he had an extremely good understanding of where to position himself. We think he will definitely improve what he has already got at FC Goa and we will try and sharpen his skills further to ensure that as a professional footballer, he goes to the very top,” he says.

And Nemil shares what it has been like with the Gaurs so far. “With FC Goa, I totally felt at home. I was confident about their vision. I spent a few weeks of last season, playing with the developmental team, and the philosophy of the team coincides with the way I like to play football – to take the initiative in games and outwit the opponents with passing and movement. Having spent some time in Spain as well, it has become easier to identify with the club’s way of football,” said Nemil, who continues to be on loan to FE Grama.

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