Rebels FC and Friends United FC took centrestage for their performances in the felicitation and closing ceremony of the Bangalore District Football Association (BDFA) A-Division tournament held at the Bangalore Football Stadium on Friday.
The two teams earned a promotion to the BDFA Super Division from the A-Division on the back of an imperious showing, finishing the league stage with 10 and nine wins out of 11 matches respectively.
Rebels’ President Preetham Chandra said, “It’s been a long-standing dream that’s taken five years to achieve, and we’re looking forward to the challenge ahead. We have always wanted to promote youth talent and give them a platform to play on a bigger level, so I’m very happy.”
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The Rebels’ academy, a fully residential facility situated in Devanahalli, has produced seven players who have been with the club on its journey from the C-Division, the fourth tier in the BDFA’s footballing pyramid, to the Super Division.
Chandra also spoke about the major challenge faced by the club during the Covid-19 pandemic, saying, “A few clubs like us, who depend on the academy model, were badly hit because we did not receive any new applications, and it was difficult to run the club year on year. To provide the players with food, accommodation and everything that comes with it was a big challenge.”
In sharp contrast to Rebels FC’s youth academy model, Friends United FC has built a team based on the experience of senior players. Nearly all of them are hardened pros with day jobs.
“Seven of them are veterans – all Santosh Trophy players from 10 years ago. Nobody could touch our team. We were the highest goal scorers,” head coach Andrew explained.
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Captain Naveen Babu underlined fitness as a challenging aspect of the season.
“One of the troubles this season was fitness. Many of us cannot come for practice regularly, but still we managed to practise and play with that,” Babu said.
The goals for next season are simple: to improve the squad, get regular practice sessions in, and most importantly, ensure that players are paid in a timely fashion.
“Most of us work as physical education teachers in schools, so we are able to get permission for playing in this division. As a family, we help run this club, and our friends and colleagues are often here to support us,” team member Naveen Kumar added.
When asked about their chances next season, pat came the reply from skipper Naveen Babu: “We are 100 per cent staying in the Super Division.”