As part of our NxGn India series, Goal takes a closer look at the most promising young talents in the country. Having revealed the ten potential stars who have found a place in this year's list, it's time for an in-depth peek at some of the others who have a seriously bright future ahead of them.
Next up is the talented winger Ridge Demello who has been turning a lot of heads with his performances in the youth circuit.
The 18-year-old is a well known name in the junior circuits and was part of the Indian Arrows team during the 2018-19 season. Being one of the junior members of the squad that season, Ridge made just a single appearance for the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) developmental team in the Super Cup. He came back to Mumbai before flying out to Portugal for a training stint.
Ridge is a talented winger who is blessed with scorching pace, something that makes him a difficult customer to deal with down the wings. And the youngster from Mumbai has been using his pace judiciously during his time with the India youth teams, especially the India U16 side.
He took to football from his school under coach Anthony Rodriguez who convinced him his talent will help him become a professional footballer. Ridge feels coach Anthony has been one of the greatest influences behind his decision to take up football as a career over academics.
It was a difficult choice to make for a kid hailing from a middle-class family background. But then he chose to not give up on his passion.
"My first coach in school, Anthony Rodrigues, was a great influence. I was never sure of football as a career. I did not have much confidence. But he told me I have it in me and I can take my game to higher levels," he told Goal .
"He would be the happiest to know that I am playing football professionally now."
Ridge has been a part of the Rush Academy in Mumbai from a young age and honed his skills there. However, he climbed up the ladder and came into national conscience with hard work and dedication.
"I gave a trial to get into the Rush academy in Mumbai. I used to train there everyday. I got a chance to play for Mumbai in district level matches soon and we went to Nashik to play the tournament where we came second."
The youngster has had to graft to earn the recognition that came his way.
"We had Maharashtra trials after that. In that year, it was in Mumbai and I got selected for that too. We went for the state level tournament in Madhya Pradesh then."
That tournament would turn out to be a breakthrough for Ridge despite his team performing poorly. "We didn’t qualify from our group but one of the AIFF scouts was there and he noticed me.
"He took my name and number and told me he’ll call me. Then he called me a month later and asked me to come for a trials. This was in Bhopal. The process went on for a month or so and there were around 80 players in the camp. But I was selected in the 18 member team and joined the India U16 set up."
"Then I was included in the India U16 tour to Tajikistan in 2017. That was my first tour with the U16 team."
His performances for the India U16 side was well noted and Ridge was a key member of the team that reached the quarter-finals of the 2018 AFC U16 Championship under Bibiano Fernandes.
"The tours and training I had to go through with the India U16 teams helped my confidence a lot. It was a whole different concept for me, the routine and the challenges with the AIFF youth set up. It helped me develop my game a lot.
"He (Bibiano) has taught me a lot of things. He is a very hardworking coach."
Unsurprisingly, Indian Arrows wanted him for the 2018-19 season. Ridge spent seven months in the Arrows set up before opting to come back to Mumbai and take up a scholarship for a training stint in Portugal. The scholarship was sponsored by Rush academy who had tie-ups in Lisbon.
He spent only a month in Portugal before the Coronavirus pandemic forced him to come back but it has been a learning curve for the youngster.
"After India U16, I got a call to join Indian Arrows. I was there in the 2018-19 season. But I had already got a scholarship for Portugal with Rush. Then I came back to Mumbai and I was told this was the right time to make use of that Portugal scholarship. So, I decided to go to Portugal.
"The standard of play and training is very different there. It is not similar to how things are in India. Something that sets them apart is the concentration on diet for everybody. It is very important. Even kids aged 13-14 were very conscious of their diet. I was there only for like a month. But it was a great experience."
At just 18, Ridge has a lot to learn and he is keen to do that abroad. The youngster is looking to move to the United States of America for training after the whole lockdown ends and pursue opportunities there. But he says he wants to come back and play football in India.
"After this pandemic, I might go to US since I already have a US visa. I feel like now is the time to get experience abroad and get more confidence in my game. But I hope in the future, I can play in India."