Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) qualified for the National Championships of the on-going Reliance Foundation Developmental League (RFDL) after making it through the regional and national qualifiers over the last two months of the league. The team battled intense competition from various opponents like Mumbai City FC, East Bengal FC and Velsao SCC to progress past the National Group Stage in their games held in Mumbai.

RFYC scored 33 goals in their regional qualifiers and conceded only thrice in 10 games, thus finishing with a positive goal difference of 30. Mumbai City FC, which finished second behind them, were 11 points short of RFYC’s tally. Notably, RFYC did not drop a game in the regionals winning all 10 games. Under such circumstances, it was natural that they headed into the National Group Stage with their head held high in confidence.

Arata Izumi, former Indian international and RFYC coach, said, “We had some really talented teams in our group, like Mumbai City FC. So, it was important to get good results early on and we just put the entire focus on our preparations that has been going on for a very long time with all the players involved in the setup,” Izumi said.

The journey doesn’t end here for the RFYC as they will now be battling in the final four to lift the coveted RFDL trophy. Moreover, they have also secured the opportunity to lock horns with clubs from the world’s largest football league - Premier League (PL), where Everton FC, Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and West Ham United FC along with South African top-tier league team Stellenbosch FC in the upcoming Premier League Next Generation Cup in Mumbai. But, Izumi is not one to lose focus straightaway.

“Right now, we have to attend to the next challenge lying in front of us – the National Championships. We have done very well to come so far but it is important to not think too far ahead. Our philosophy is to take it one day and one game at a time. We have to give our 100 per cent to the next match and then the game after that. Of course, the players will learn and pick up a whole lot of things by playing against Premier League and South African clubs but they need to ensure that they stay in the moment and focus on the National Championships now,” Izumi said.

Their forward Chirag Bhujel, also donning the Number 7 jersey for the team, has been a revelation with his regular goals in the National Group Stage. When he doesn’t start, he comes off the bench to make an impact and power his team to a victory, as was evident in their 3-2 win against East Bengal on May 1. There are scores of promising young stars in that RFYC roster but all eyes will be on Bhujel as the team enters the final stage of this intensely competitive season of the RFDL this week.