Rising Stars Shine Bright: Reliance Foundation Young Champs Bag A Brace With Two Graduates Signing Professional Contracts in ISL
Nathan Rodrigues and Franklin Nazareth have put pen to paper on deals with the Indian Super League (ISL) League Shield Winners Mumbai City FC.
The Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) has proven to be a great platform for some of the most promising footballing talents across the country. Carefully scouted every year, the youngsters undergo a comprehensive training regime through a multi-year program before which they graduate and set foot in their professional careers.
This year, a couple of such graduates have embarked on their respective senior careers, namely: Nathan Rodrigues and Franklin Nazareth. The two of them have put pen to paper on deals with the incumbent Indian Super League (ISL) League Shield Winners Mumbai City FC.
Both Nathan and Franklin joined the RFYC ranks in 2019 and underwent a holistic transformation in their playing styles during their time at the academy. Nathan had started as a midfielder but was transitioned into a centre-back as time progressed. On the other hand, the coaches gave Franklin a crucial role at the centre of the park.
“In RFYC, we are not put under pressure to get promoted to the ISL first teams. You can purely focus on your development to get better and then look at a contract at the end of the graduating year. The focus is very clear and the coaching staff will help you to develop comprehensively here,” Franklin says about the RFYC setup.
RFYC participates in several club tournaments across the country with specific age groups even undertaking exposure tours to international destinations occasionally. They made it to the National Championship of the Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) in May and finished in the top four amongst over 60 teams that participated in the second edition of the competition.
In fact, Nathan was scouted by the Islanders during one of the Young Champs’ games against Mumbai City FC during the National Group Stage in Mumbai. Making a comeback after a year-long layoff due to a knee injury, Nathan made heads turn with his performance against Mumbai. He is tipped to be a top centre-back in the future given that he possesses all the skillsets required in a modern-day defender.
“In that game, I remember I mostly like to play the ball, like keeping the ball and helping build up the play. I did very well like from the back to taking my chances and moving the ball up through the middle to the striker. I did very well in that match and also in long balls, defending and winning aerial duels,” Nathan recalls.
Meanwhile, Sandro Salami, the Head of Youth Development at RFYC, has encouraged both the boys to keep their heads on their shoulders as they embark on their respective professional careers. Salami maintains that RFYC trains youngsters to adapt to different playing styles pretty comfortably and hence his message to the duo is to enter the arena of senior-level football with an open mind.
“My advice is they are still young. They have made it, taking the first step in their professional careers. Now they should look to cement their place in the team and get regular playing time. I keep telling that to young players, head on the shoulders, feet on the ground, keep chasing your dream and that’s how you keep progressing in professional football. Nothing is concrete, so keep chasing your dreams always,” Salami says.