Founder and chairperson of Reliance Foundation Nita Ambani wished the Indian football U-17 team ahead of the upcoming U-17 World Cup, starting October 6 in New Delhi.

The 53-year-old, who is also an International Olympic Association member, shed light on the positive developments in Indian football on the sidelines of a local football league -- Reliance Foundation Youth Sports (RFYS) school and college football championship -- launch in Ahmedabad on Friday, September 30.

"These are wonderful times for Indian football, said Mrs Ambani. We have recently seen the Indian national team break into the Top 100 in world rankings after a gap of two decades. And now for the first time in the history of the game, India is not only participating in a FIFA World Cup competition but also hosting a full-fledged world football event," Ambai said.

She added: "I am sure our boys are proud of what they are about to achieve and so are we for them, as well as for the nation to be represented in the World Cup."

Ambani also said the RFYS tournament will propel the growth of the beautiful game deep into the Indian heartland and will lay the foundation for tomorrow champions.

"We have over 60,000 kids playing this beautiful game in 30 centres across the country right now. By December this year, we would have reached out to over 6 million children through our football initiatives. heartening to see so much wonderful talent at our disposal. I am sure the day is not far when we can start competing as equals with top teams in Asia and the world," Ambani said.

Nita Ambani
Nita Ambani at the launch of Reliance Foundation Young Champs Ahmedabad legReliance Foundation Young Champs

Ambani also took the opportunity to commit the Reliance Foundation to transform India into a multi-sports nation in the not too distant future. The goal is to build a grassroots sports eco-system in the country that will not only encourage youth to take up sport but will also provide every child a platform to nurture his or her talent.

"Reliance Foundation Youth Sports has been conceived to reignite sports in schools and colleges," Ambani said.

"We are aiming to create a unified sports structure through RFYS and have a holistic plan for all major Olympic sports. We would like to provide a viable sports career opportunities for the youth of our country," she added.

Cheered on by hundreds of kids at the SAL Education campus in Ahmedabad, Ambani ceremoniously launched the second season of RF Youth Sports just before the inaugural match between SAL Institute of Technology and Engineering and Silver Oak College of Engineering and Technology.

For Ahmedabad leg – the prestigious football championship will have 220 teams vying for the top honours in four categories ie Junior Boys, Senior Boys, School Girls and College Boys.

The RFYS football tournament has already become the largest football grassroots effort in the country, with over 4,500 educational institutes and more than 60,000 children competing over the next four months.

The championship which was held in the eight cities in the inaugural year will see participation from Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Shillong, Aizawl, Imphal, Hyderabad and Jamshedpur as well this year.

The competition is being played in four categories: Junior Boys, Senior Boys, Senior Girls and College Boys. City winner of each category will further compete at the Zonal Qualifiers followed by the National Finals to be held in January 2018.