East Bengal FC head coach Carles Cuadrat appreciated the array of opportunities and increased game-time that the Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) is offering young footballers across the country. Cuadrat explained that the elite youth development tournament has made the bridge between the reserve and first teams of clubs pretty smooth for all players.

Cuadrat has had a fairly long tryst with Indian football, having been associated with Bengaluru FC in the market including an ISL title-winning season in 2018. He took over the helm of East Bengal FC ahead of this season and hence has a complete understanding of what the youth footballing structure holds for the further development of the sport here.

According to the Spaniard, RFDL has allowed the players to not waste precious time of their developmental years on the bench, and instead engage in closely fought encounters with their peers from clubs across the country.

You can download the video and watch him speak here: https://we.tl/t-hfuykIIVCO  (Courtesy: RFDL)

“RFDL allows players to play competitive games against their peers”

“It gives them an opportunity to play games. It’s one of the things that are difficult in India in the formation of players. I remember watching a lot of games with the Bengaluru B teams, with the sides winning by 6-0, 8-0, and these results don’t put you in a competitive situation. It’s too easy for teams to be winners in that kind of game and then the jump to the ISL is too high. So, the RFDL gives players the opportunity to be competitive with players of your age, who can give you trouble on the field. I have been watching the games, they have been close like 2-0, 1-0, and 2. It means that it’s a challenging tournament,” Cuadrat said during a recent interaction with the league.

He added, “Players have to give their everything and for sure they will learn a lot from that. Some players are in the first-team, but it’s better for them to get minutes playing in the RFDL. For example, Sayan Banerjee was playing for East Bengal in the RFDL, and he even came in the first-team. The tournament gives them a huge opportunity to express the way they play the game and get an opportunity to get in the first team.”

Cuadrat drew an example from the time he spent with the Blues, saying that the level of competitiveness in youth games has increased reasonably since then. It has thus helped head coaches of Indian Super League (ISL) clubs to deploy their squad players into the RFDL, ensuring that they get some good game-time under their belt before progressing to representing their outfits in the top tier.

“RFDL helps us gauge potential of players over a long period of time”

Cuadrat dived deep into his overall coaching philosophy to explain the importance of the RFDL and the way it has helped his players grow considerably in this campaign. He mentioned that a lot of uncapped players first earn their stripes by being introduced as fresh legs to keep up the intensity of the game during the final few minutes of ISL matches. That might be beneficial to them, but Cuadrat quipped that such infrequent playing time does not allow them a proper chance to give a testament to their overall talent and calibre. Instead, when they play 90-odd minutes in the RFDL regularly, it gives coaches like him a far greater sample size to assess and induct a player permanently into the first-team.

“It allows you to see the games real-time, some players who you weren’t able to give chances in the first-team, we get to see them in a real competitive game. This season, we have been giving opportunities to play to many young players. They have gotten some minutes for the first team, but it’s different when they get to play for 90 minutes. It’s what’s happening in the RFDL. You can see players playing for long periods of a game, and then we can see if they can be of help to us for the next season,” he said.

Cuadrat’s insights have thrown light upon the significance of the league in not only harnessing the skillsets of a particular player but also the comprehensive assessment of the players’ potential over a reasonable period. With the RFDL continues to march forward and thrive, it serves as a testament to the enduring growth of the sport in India.’

East Bengal FC has had a phenomenal run in RFDL so far. They have also qualified for the National Group Stage topping the table of the East Region.

The ongoing season has already witnessed some exciting results where lesser-known teams have showcased their talent against the best clubs in the country, which testament to the vision of RFDL.

The third season of the Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) got underway across eight zones in February 2024. The three-stage tournament has seen a lot of surprises and the emergence of new clubs competing against their more seasoned counterparts in the Regional Qualifiers being held currently. 20 teams will progress from here to make it to the National Group Stage, from which four sides will qualify for the National Championships.

Punjab FC and Delhi FC from the North Zone have already booked their place in the next round of the competition, whereas Bengaluru FC, Roots FC, and Chennaiyin FC have progressed further from the South Zone. FC Goa, Dempo SC, and Pax of Nagoa SC have qualified from the Regional Qualifiers in Goa, whereas NorthEast United FC have moved forward from the Meghalaya-Assam Region. From the East Zone East Bengal FC, Mohun Bagan Super Giant, Adamas United SA and Muthoot FA, Kerala Blasters FC and Parappur FC from the Kerala region have qualified for the National Group Stage.

The Regional Qualifiers in Mizoram have seen the progress of Home Missions FC so far, whilst the race for the National Group Stage is still on in Mumbai, and Kerala groups.

RFDL 2024 fixtures: https://www.rfyouthsports.com/football/rfdl/schedule-fixtures

About Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL): 

RFDL is part of Reliance Foundation’s continued commitment towards supporting young footballers in India to evolve their skills by providing them with more opportunities, world-class infrastructure, sports science expertise and coaching, contributing to the growth of Indian football.  https://www.rfyouthsports.com/football/rfdl. Now in its third season, (RFDL) is designed to be a platform for the top U-21 football players to showcase their talent in a highly competitive environment. The tournament is India’s largest and most inclusive U-21 youth tournament comprising of over 50 teams across 9 regions in India from Hero Indian Super League, I-League division I&II and Independent Academies / Clubs nominated by the State Football Associations. With the eyes of academy coaches and scouts from both within the country and abroad, RFDL serves as the ideal platform that they can thrive upon to give wings to their fledging careers moving forward. 

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