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Indian Women's League (IWL)

With a residential academy for women footballers, Rebels FC is here to stay

One of the few clubs to have a residential academy for female players, Rebels FC is focused on nurturing talent the right way.

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The Rebels FC team in the KWL

By

Sayan Chatterjee

Updated: 2021-03-19T15:08:23+05:30

After more than a month, the curtains finally came down on the Karnataka Women's League (KWL) on Thursday. Kickstart FC emerged winners against Bangalore United FC on the final day and will now be representing Karnataka in the upcoming Indian Women's League (IWL). However, one team that has stolen the show in terms of their crowd support throughout the season is Rebels FC.

Although the club eventually finished 7th in the KWL points table, the atmosphere which their fans invariably created at the stadium during their games is worthy of applause. What is also appreciable about them is that even with an average age of just 17, the team never shied away from standing up against their opponents, even those that were superior to them physically.

The Rebels FC fans cheering the team on from the stands

Rebels is also one of the only women's teams in the country which has a residential academy for its girls. Speaking about this, the team's media manager Navneet says, ""We have had an academy in Yelahanka for over three years now. The boys' team has been there from the very beginning but we formed the girls' team just last November. Many of them are enrolled in our academy. Since then, we have played the Super Division qualifiers and came runners-up."

There are around 30 girls in their roster at the moment, with 15 more in the A division league. As mentioned earlier, they had one of the youngest squads in the KWL this term with their most experienced player being a 30-year-old, the right-back Snehal, who played for an IWL team last year. The remaining have played in the Khelo India games and for their respective state teams as well. While most of the players are from Karnataka, a couple are from the northeast, Goa and Maharashtra.

While football is, of course, the priority there, the academy also caters towards the girls' requirement in terms of education and basic life skills. "We have collaborations with educational institutions like New Age World School, whereby if the girls want, they can opt to be a part of our curriculum. We provide scholarships to players who come from underprivileged backgrounds, like a couple of players from Kolhapur in Maharashtra, and try to make it easier for them to pursue the game without any unnecessary financial baggage."

The club also has partners who scout players from other states. Besides, their coach, who has C-license, was the captain of FC Pune City in the IWL a few seasons back before she got injured and decided to take up coaching instead. Their scouting is focused on picking up players who show promise from a very young age, with the focus being on grooming them and getting them ready for top level women's football in the country. While this may have resulted in a few disappointing results, like in this season's KWL, it also helps them unearth a few hidden gems who would have otherwise gotten lost into oblivion.

One such player is the young and exciting Senorita. She has previously played in the IWL for FC Pune City and even started for the first team at the age of 14. Now she's 17 and currently recovering from a serious knee injury. Despite that, she is ever-present on the stands to cheer the team on. She is also on a scholarship and the club is committed towards sponsoring her surgery and rehabilitation.

Navneet himself is a sports management pass out from International Institute of Sports Management, Mumbai, and has previously worked for other startups before landing the position of a media manager for Rebels. While the club itself is still up and coming, for him and others in his team, being in an environment that fosters the development of young talented individuals has been a rewarding experience in itself. For this and so much more, Rebels FC is one team that everyone in Karnataka should keep an eye on. All we can say is, keep up with the good work….!!

(Image credits: Md. Arsalan)

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