Subrata Pal: The playing standard of the Reliance Foundation Development League has improved with every passing year

Anticipation mounts as Reliance Foundation Development League 2023-24 semi-finalists set the stage for the National Championship –

Mumbai, May 6, 2024: The Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) 2023-24 gears up for an exciting climax as four teams secure their spots in the much-anticipated National Championship. Bengaluru FC, East Bengal FC, Muthoot FA, and Punjab FC emerge as formidable semi-finalists after a rigorous journey through the National Group Stage. The RFDL continues to uphold its commitment to youth development and the growth of Indian football, providing a platform for talent to flourish and dreams to soar.

Set to unfold from May 14th to May 18th at Reliance Corporate Park (RCP), Mumbai, the National Championship promises a showcase of exceptional talent, resilience, and sportsmanship. Two semi-finals will be followed by a third-place playoff match and finally, the summit clash to cap off the third season of RFDL. The matches will be live-streamed on

Former Indian football captain Subrata Pal lauded the RFDL for its pivotal role in nurturing budding talents and elevating the standard of play across the league. Pal highlighted the league’s progressive growth over the years, attributing it to increased participation from diverse teams and players, ultimately enriching the footballing landscape.

“The RFDL promotes opportunities and a thought process that is very vital for Indian football. Not all players get playing time in top competitions such as the ISL and the I-League. However, a fleet of clubs & academies tend to participate in the RFDL, such as the AIPL FC from Bihar. These teams otherwise do not get enough playing opportunities against good teams. They play tournaments, but to face top teams and big players is extremely essential for the future of Indian football,” Pal said.

He added, “The standard of the RFDL has been increasing gradually. It is seeing participation from teams belonging to the ISL, the I-League, and even the elite football academies in the country. The tournament works towards a larger objective, and I hope that it continues to be the best competition in India for the concerned age group. I really appreciate Reliance Foundation for undertaking this initiative. We lacked competitions of such quality during our playing careers.”

National Group Stage: With the National Group Stage witnessing intense competition among 20 teams from different regions, the journey to the semi-finals has been nothing short of exhilarating. Defending champions Bengaluru FC lead the charge, joined by Muthoot FA, East Bengal FC, and Punjab FC, marking a significant shift in the league’s competitive landscape.

As anticipation builds for the upcoming semi-final clashes and the subsequent championship showdown, all eyes are on Bengaluru FC’s quest for a historic third consecutive title. However, formidable adversaries like East Bengal FC, Muthoot FA, and Punjab FC stand poised to challenge the reigning champions, promising an electrifying culmination to the RFDL 2023-24 season.

Furthering the aspirational exposure that the league provides up-and-coming teams, the qualification of teams like Muthoot FA and Punjab FC serve as a timely reminder of the pathway that the RFDL is laying to the comparatively unheralded teams in the Indian footballing landscape. For Instance, Muthoot FA fended off competition from a heavyweight like FC Goa to finish atop the standings in Group B, whereas Punjab FC sneaked past Mohun Bagan Super Giant, Mumbai City FC, and RFDL Season 2 runners-up Sudeva FC, to secure a spot in the final four. Bengaluru FC, who have won the first two editions of the RFDL, beat the likes of Chennaiyin FC and Kerala Blasters FC to qualify for the National Championship, and East Bengal FC faced similarly intense competition from teams such as Delhi FC and NorthEast United FC in their group.

However, Pal’s vision for the tournament transcends that, exemplifying how RFDL has strengthened the scouting ecosystem in Indian football. He understands that players have their fitness standards taking a hit if they do not engage in regular matches. Pal said that not every player in an ISL or an I-League squad can obtain sufficient playing time every season, and for them, the RFDL is a relieving factor as it allows them to sharpen their skills, and remain in the thick of things consistently. Further, the competition allows coaches to keep a constant tab on their squad players, thus helping them analyse their suitability for the first-team and thus bridge the gap between reserve and senior team football.

“There are multiple key boxes that RFDL helps with ticking in Indian football. For instance, an ISL squad is fairly big and it’s not possible for every player to get ample playing time across a season. However, if a footballer plays less minutes, it impacts their fitness levels. The ISL head coach also gets an opportunity through the RFDL to assess the performance metrics of their entire squad, thanks to them playing in the RFDL,” Pal said.

He added, “If one performs well in the RFDL, the scouts of these teams ensure that the individuals have a fantastic opportunity to get picked by professional teams. I was lucky to get match-time right from the beginning of my career. But every player doesn’t get that chance. Suppose, you look at the case of Amarjit Singh Kiyam in Punjab FC. He didn’t get many chances in the first-team in the ISL, but he got his playing time in the RFDL. Similarly, several players from different teams made the most of this opportunity.”

Reliance Foundation Development League 2023-24 National Championship Fixtures:

  • Semifinal 1: Bengaluru FC vs Punjab FC – May 14, Reliance Corporate Park, Navi Mumbai, 05:00 PM IST
Bengaluru FC
Punjab FC
  • Semifinal 2: Muthoot FA vs East Bengal FC – May 14, Reliance Corporate Park, Navi Mumbai, 08:00 PM IST
  • Third-Place Playoff: May 17, Reliance Corporate Park, Navi Mumbai, 06:00 PM IST
  • RFDL Final: May 18, Reliance Corporate Park, Navi Mumbai, 06:00 PM IST

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