10 players who should join I-League clubs for game-time

Riddhiman Sarkar

May 7 2023

These players would benefit immensely from switching to the second tier of Indian football. 

With Odisha FC winning the Hero Super Cup, it is time for the teams to focus on sorting out their squads to prepare for next season. RoundGlass Punjab will compete in the Indian Super League next season but some players will look to go the opposite way.

Be it game time or suitability to the league, most of these players might actually reach their prime by playing and competing in the I-League. Let us now take a look at 10 players who should join I-League clubs for more game time. 

10 Makan Chothe

The young winger was roped in by FC Goa during the 2020-21 season. He racked up two assists but featured only 10 times under outgoing coach Carlos Pena. However, given how Minerva Punjab (now RoundGlass Punjab) gave him his breakthrough, the I-League should be a familiar environment for him to garner experience. Chothe incidentally featured in Minerva’s league-winning campaign in the 2017-2018 season.

In fact, he got AFC Cup (five appearances) and AFC Champions League (one appearance) experience under his belt during his time with the club. Although a return to his former side is unlikely given that they just won the league and will play in the ISL next season, he can be loaned out to other I-league teams. More game time would certainly benefit the electric 23-year old to develop his game and return as an integral player. 

9 Ravi Bahadur Rana

ATK Mohun Bagan signed Rana especially because of his versatility. The right-back can do an impressive job as both a midfielder as well a winger, all thanks to his commendable ball control and shooting abilities. Unfortunately, the Jamshedpur FC academy graduate only managed two appearances across two seasons and only six minutes of action.

If he is to flourish, Rana must look towards greener pastures which at the moment is the I-League. As unlikely as he is to dethrone Asish Rai, Rana will need to get Juan Ferrando to notice his unique skill set by getting more game time in the second-tier league of Indian football. 

8 Amarjit Singh Kiyam

India’s captain at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Amarjit Kiyam has not exactly had the career growth trajectory that he would have expected. The midfielder had initially been snapped up by Jamshedpur FC after joining Indian Arrows. However, he was sent back to the developmental club to further hone his skills. His time with Jamshedpur came to an end after getting his debut with the Red Miners and shifting to FC Goa. Since then he has been loaned out to East Bengal FC but even there, his solitary appearance could only get him 10 minutes of first-team action.

A shift of scenario to the I-League will surely help him bloom into the commanding midfielder that he is destined to be as was seen in the 2017 FIFA World Cup. East Bengal’s incoming coach Carles Cuadrat may prefer his services. But Amarjit would do better in the second tier where there’s no shortage of competition and quality. 

7 Angousana Wahengbam

Former TRAU FC midfielder Wahengbam played an extensive part in the East Bengal squad in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons. He amassed just three assists during that period and thus, was restricted to one appearance all season and that too, lasted only a minute.

Despite his experience in the ISL, the midfielder is much more suited to I-League football and its needs. His game is not very number-heavy and he tends to be more of a workhorse. New management might not want him taking up space in the team, especially given the 27-year-old’s age and contribution so far. 

6 Laldanmawia Ralte

Danmawia is one of the older candidates on this list and has plied his trade with Aizawl, East Bengal, Hyderabad FC, and currently plays for NorthEast United FC. His 2021-22 campaign was productive with a yield of four goals and one assist in 13 matches. However, Ralte staggered in the 2022-23 season with only six appearances for the Highlanders, who finished last in the league. Even after a moderately successful Super Cup campaign, it is highly likely that a complete revival of the squad will take place.

In that case, Danmawia is set to be one of the first players to be axed from the squad as he’s already 30 and not one of the highlights of an underperforming side. The I-League should prove to be known grounds for him and get him more game time for the rest of his career. At this point, a permanent transfer would make more sense rather than a loan for the Mizo winger. 

5 Gyamar Nikum

Nikum was brought in by the Islanders this season and tasted victory in his debut season as the club won the ISL League Winner’s Shield. The forward, however, had no part to play in the same as he made only one appearance. Moving from Rajasthan United, the 18-year-old was signed on a four-year contract till May 2027. But it seems unlikely that with the likes of Bipin Singh, Greg Stewart, Jorge Diaz, and the brilliant Mizo Flash Lallianzuala Chhangte hogging the limelight and goals, he’ll be anywhere near selection.

Des Buckingham‘s youth-centric approach might have signalled game time for him earlier but his approach has drastically changed over a season. His preference to stick with experienced professionals and in-form Indian players would grant little leeway to the younger contingent. 

4 Himanshu Jangra

The Minerva Punjab Academy product was included in the Guardian’s “Next Generation” list in 2021. Jangra made only six appearances in the league for East Bengal last season and looked none the wiser. Given the Kolkata-based club’s managerial problems as well as concerns regarding the hierarchy, Jangra would have more scope in the I-League.

The 18-year-old forward has already played with Indian Arrows and is a towering presence at 5’11”. Additionally, his profile makes him a potential goalscoring threat as his dribbling skills and ability to play as a withdrawn forward form his deadly arsenal. Clubs like Gokulam could use a striker like him to fill in the shoes of the prolific Luka Majcen. 

3 Prasanth Karuthadathkuni

Gifted with pace, dribbling, and inch-perfect positioning, Prasanth was an integral part of his home state club Kerala Blasters for a long time. He was a fan-favorite at his former club but the 25-year-old signed with Chennaiyin FC in the 2022-23 season. Since then, life has looked bleak for the energetic forward as he has mustered only a goal and an assist in 15 appearances.

Having made over 60 appearances for Kerala Blasters and 15 for Chennaiyin FC, Prasanth seems to have hit a roadblock. One of the surest ways to overcome this would be to grace the I-League. Although he isn’t used to the league, it wouldn’t take him long to get acquainted with the playing style. The I-League would also prove to be a good place to rejuvenate his career. 

2 Pawan Kumar

He won the ISL with Chennaiyin FC and the ISL League Winner’s Shield with Jamshedpur FC, but Pawan Kumar hasn’t seen too much action between the sticks. Even though he was signed by East Bengal for the 2022-23 season, he is yet to feature for the club.

Not only has Kamaljit surpassed him greatly but also eliminated the need for a reserve keeper like him. The I-League is in need of good goalkeepers not just for the league stage but for the Asian championship stages as well. Kumar might not be a starting goal custodian at 32 but could most definitely be a great substitute to rely on during crucial stages. 

1 Muhammed Nemil 

Nemil is one of the gems of Indian Football. He came to light after he was sent to Spain by RFYC to train in the High-Performance Academy at Marcet in Spain. The youngster further impressed at the academy and was even selected by UDA Gramenet. Nemil will spend this season out on loan, playing in the Juvenile Liga Nacional in Spain as a part of Gramenet’s U18 set-up.

Nemil played 14 matches with the senior team in the 2021-22 season but the attacking midfielder went actionless in the 2022-23 season. He was injured before the start of the Hero Super Cup. The I-League should present scintillating opportunities to the attacker. A change of scenery would not only be beneficial to him but also help unlock his full potential.

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