Srinagar, Nov 18: In a landmark move, the Reliance Foundation Youth Sports (RFYS) is set to revolutionize grassroots football in the breathtaking landscapes of Kashmir. The premier youth sports organization will conduct tournaments across three age categories - U-15, U-21 for boys, and U-19 for girls, marking a significant foray into a region known for its fervent passion for football.
Partnering with the Department of Higher Education (UT of Jammu & Kashmir) and the University of Kashmir, RFYS has initiated the Annual Inter College Boys tournament. The ongoing event, spanning from November 13 to November 30, 2023, at the university's football ground in Srinagar, features 29 teams competing in 28 matches. Additionally, the RFYS U-15 Boys and U-19 Girls competitions will witness 32 and 16 teams respectively from four districts of the Union Territory participating in the tournament.
Prof Nilofer Khan, Vice Chancellor of the University of Kashmir, expressed gratitude to RFYS for the collaboration and emphasized the importance of engaging youth in positive frameworks. She pledged full support, particularly for female athletes, highlighting the potential footballing talent in Kashmir.
Former India international Mehrajuddin Wadoo, a Kashmir native, commended RFYS for providing a platform for youngsters to showcase their skills and potentially enter the Indian Super League (ISL) and the national team. He stressed the significance of exposure and opportunities that the tournament brings to emerging footballers in the valley.
Danish Farooq, midfielder for Kerala Blasters FC and a Srinagar native, echoed the sentiment, stating that RFYS is a crucial initiative for boys and girls in Kashmir. He wished participants the best of luck and expressed hope for the growth of football in the region.
RFYS aims to professionalize football in Kashmir by offering quality playing time, coach development, and grants for football development. The program, impacting nearly nine million students since its inception, sees the Kashmir leg as a pivotal step in its future. With genuine interest in football in the valley, the tournament aims to create a pathway for promising players to thrive in India's professional football setups.
Launched in 2016, RFYS has transformed grassroots sports in India by providing a structured competition platform for schools and colleges. Notable alumni include Melroy Assisi, Hira Mondal, Makan Winkle Chote, Gurnaj Singh Grewal, Sivasakthi Narayanan, Shilky Devi Hemam, and Mariyammal Balamurugan, who have gone on to sign professional contracts with ISL and I-League teams, some representing India internationally.