How the Naupang League gave wings to a young boy’s dream

Left: R.Lalruatfela, Right: Vanlalrochanhlua

It is that one experience which changes your life. Coming from a financially humble family, Vanlalrochanhlua, an 11-year-old boy from the Kolasib district of Mizoram, embarked on an extraordinary journey to Mumbai for the Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) Exposure trip, all thanks to the RFYC Naupang League in Mizoram.

Leaving Mizoram was merely a distant dream for Vanlalrochanhlua’s family. Yet, growing up in a community closer to the jungle than to a football ground, Vanlalrochanhlua developed a deep passion for the beautiful game. Despite his parents’ inability to afford football kits, he received unwavering support from the academy and his coaches.

Then, a remarkable opportunity presented itself when the Mizoram Football Association joined hands with the Reliance Foundation in 2022 to launch football leagues for children in four districts of Mizoram. It was called The Naupang League in Aizawl and Champhai and RFYC District League in Kolasib and Lunglei. In its second year, the four leagues spanned over seven months on average, featuring more than 160 teams and 2000 players across four age categories from U-6 to U-14.


Representing Project Veng Academy in the Kolasib District League, Vanlalrochanhlua faced numerous challenges off the pitch, but continued to shine on the field. He was selected for a team that took part in the League, played 21 matches and consistently delivered with five clean sheets. His resilience under the crossbar mirrored his perseverance in overcoming life’s obstacles. As a reward for his outstanding performance in the inter-district championship, he was among the 40 kids selected for the RFYC Exposure trip to Mumbai, offering top-notch facilities, infrastructure, and training under esteemed grassroots coaches.

“Compared to last year, I’ve gained invaluable experience and newfound confidence,” remarked Vanlalrochanhlua, whose words were translated by R  Lalruatfela, AFC B Licensed coach and Location Manager of Kolasib District in the Naupang League. “The exposure in this Naupang League will undoubtedly help me achieve my future goals.”

Embarking on a week-long experiential trip to the Reliance Foundation Football Academy in Mumbai, a city far removed from the hilly districts of Kolasib, was an unimaginable feat for Vanlalrochanhlua. He broke down in tears when he got to know about the trip, as he was reluctant to leave his family behind.

On the day of travel, while other 40 children arrived at the Aizawl airport with their parents and a plethora of belongings, Vanlalrochanhlua carried only a small backpack with two sets of clothes.

Seeing Vanlalrochanhlua break down, Lalruatfela also travelled with the children to Mumbai, and lent his goalkeeping gloves to Vanlalrochanhlua to boost his morale.

While this exposure trip opened doors to opportunities in the football realm, the then-10-year-old had multiple off-field learnings to imbibe. From residing in a four-star hotel and struggling to operate the tap in the washroom, to the quantity of food he could consume on his plate – these simple experiences added to his few days in Mumbai. 

Naupang League in Mizoram. Source: RFYC

Lalruatfela emphasised on Vanlalrochanhlua’s innocence with regards to food consumption. “There was a lot of food in the restaurant, you don’t know what to take, what not to take,” he said. “Because of that, he took a full plate, unable to consume it all.” With the aim of imparting a life lesson, his coach merely guided him as to how much food he should take on his plate. “The next day, I told him how much to take. He got a little scared and took only one chapati!” 

Vanlalrochanhlua, who is once again representing Kolasib district in the second edition of the Naupang League, cherished his experience in Mumbai to the fullest. “I thoroughly enjoyed the goalkeeping training there,” he said. “The hotel was fabulous, and the flight journey was a first-time experience for me. If it weren’t for Reliance Foundation Young Champs, I would have never had the opportunity to travel by flight.”

Lalruatfela echoed those sentiments. “One thing that truly fascinated me was the rise of this boy,” he said. “Among many others, his journey truly touched me. Without the League, how could he have travelled to Mumbai or Aizawl? How could he have trained with modern facilities and infrastructure?

“In his life, he may not become a top goalkeeper or footballer. Yet, through this initiative, he gained courage and motivation to aspire to greater heights. That’s the beauty of football – it instils hope and resilience in the face of adversity.”