Huidrom Thoi Singh has been signed on by Bengaluru FC for a period of three years Credit: EastMojo image

Manipur boy Huidrom Thoi Singh is among the nine players set to graduate as the first batch from the Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) academy in Navi Mumbai. He will now be signing contracts with leading ISL clubs.

Thoi, a striker, has shown enormous potential in age-group tournaments and will be joining his idol, Indian captain Sunil Chhetri, at Bengaluru FC. Thoi has been signed on by the club for a period of three years. Besides him, eight other players from the academy are embarking on their professional careers – Aritra Das, Muhammad Basith PT & Birendra Singh are headed to Kerala Blasters FC, G Balaji & Aqib Nawab will be at Chennaiyin FC, Muhammaed Nemil at FC Goa, Ayush Chhikara at Mumbai City FC and Koustav Dutta at Hyderabad FC.

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“It is a matter of great pride and joy for us that our young champs from RFYC have embarked on their professional footballing journey with ISL,” said Mrs. Nita Ambani, Founder & Chairperson of Reliance Foundation. “We started the academy in 2015 to provide a pathway for talented young players across India to build successful professional careers in the sport. These boys arrived at RFYC in their early teens and I am delighted that they step out today as highly skilled players, who have earned a place with the best football clubs in the country,” she added.

These players have spent the last five years at RFYC as the first batch of students to be inducted when the academy was founded in 2015. With the vision to make India a footballing superpower in the future, RFYC selects the best young talent through a pan-India scouting effort each year. These talented athletes are offered full scholarships at the academy, with an equal focus on academics and sports.

They then train under the tutelage of experienced international and Indian coaches and have access to world-class facilities and training. They also receive a high-quality education at the nearby Reliance Foundation School in Koparkhairane. This gives them a holistic environment to hone their skills, with additional support through dedicated departments like Sports Science and Sports Psychology.

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In fact, earlier this year RFYC was conferred Two-Star Academy status by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the first occasion a residential academy based in India was granted this status. The recognition came as another feather in the cap after it became the first youth academy in India to be granted a 5-star rating by the AIFF Academy Accreditation process in 2019.

AFC grants two-star status only after an academy meets rigorous criteria based on its ability to provide leadership, planning, organisation, staffing, recruitment, finance, facilities, coaching, player health, coaching, and fitness among other requirements.

“In order to unlock the huge potential of Indian football, we need to create a world-class ecosystem,” asserts Mrs. Ambani adding, “That has been our goal at RFYC over these last five years. Of course, these are still early days and a lot of hard work lies ahead for these boys at their respective clubs. But I am hopeful the training they have received in all aspects of technical skills, physical fitness, and mental conditioning will hold them in good stead. I am keeping my fingers crossed for their success!”

With 22 new young players joining the program in the last year, the total students currently training at the RFYC academy is 65, with 22 full-time staff. RFYC also supports AIFF’s coach education efforts, to help strengthen India’s wider sports knowledge eco-system.

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