The youth league has been the breeding ground for promising young players for some years now.
The Elite League is the top level of youth football in India. It is contested between the U-18 sides of I-League and Indian Super League (ISL) clubs and various other teams.
Over the past few years, the competition has produced several talented stars who have gone on to perform at the top level for various I-League and ISL sides. The 2019-20 Elite League season was no exception and although the competition had to be suspended midway through due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are quite sure that these starlets are here to stay.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top 10 emerging talents from 2019-20 Elite League:
10. Jaskarenvir Singh – Punjab FC
With 12 clean-sheets from 14 matches, Jaskarenvir Singh was by far the best goalkeeper in the 2019-20 Elite League, but this is not the first time that he has helped his team gain attention. The 18-year-old shot-stopper has already won two U-15 I-League titles and one Elite League crown with Punjab FC (formerly Minerva Punjab). This season, his team had once again advanced to the final round of the competition with ten wins.
Jaskarenvir Singh is a sweeper keeper, whose biggest strengths are his distribution and game-reading abilities. He was a key catalyst of Punjab FC’s attack during the Elite League and his confidence to leave his line and participate in defending also enabled his teammates in midfield and defence to play higher up the pitch.
A goalkeeper like Jaskarenvir is truly an asset for the country, especially thanks to his sweeper-keeper abilities. Given his current form, it is safe to say that he will definitely be promoted to the senior team in another one or two years.
9. Brison Deuben Fernandes – FC Goa
Brison Deuben Fernandes is one of the best young midfielders at FC Goa right now. The 19-year-old was scouted by the club, who then signed him on a three-year deal in 2018.
In the 2019-20 season, Brison played 11 matches with Goa. He was also a vital part of the team that advanced to the final round of the Elite League, with five wins and just one loss from eight group stage matches. He also scored two goals in the competition.
A creative midfielder, Brison’s biggest strength is that he is quite good on the ball. He is quite adept at creating chances and has also often shown the ability to track back and defend when necessary. He may be fairly inexperienced at the moment, but it will still not be surprising to see him play for the Gaurs’ senior team in the ISL in the coming seasons.
8. Rishabh Dobriyal – Odisha FC
The second-highest goalscorer in the 2019-20 Elite League, Rishabh Dobriyal made headlines for his lethal attacking partnership with teammate Akshunna Tyagi. Dobriyal joined Odisha FC in June 2018, thanks to the recommendation of coaches who were impressed by his performances for Hindustan FC, his former club.
18-year-old Dobriyal has proved that he is a multi-purpose player, who can play in any attacking position. During the course of the Elite League, he was deployed on both wings and even as a No. 9 and a No. 10 in a couple of matches. He was always found to be effective regardless of his position, having scored a total of 18 goals in 14 matches.
His main strengths are his pace, dribbling skills and creativity in the 18-yard box. According to his coaches, he is also an excellent game-reader, with a penchant for swinging in crosses while playing on the flanks.
7. Emanuel Lalchhanchhuaha – Bengaluru FC
Former U Mumba starlet Emanuel Lalchhanchhuaha joined Bengaluru FC in 2018, since when he has developed to become one of India’s best young midfielders under coach Naushad Moosa.
Lalchhanchhuaha played 32 matches for his team this season. He was also a part of the side that qualified for the final round of the 2019-20 Elite League. The 17-year-old is a hard worker on the pitch and physically strong. He is someone who loves to move freely on the field and always wants to take on opponents in 1v1 situations. He also has a very quick transition from attack to defence and defence to attack.
6. Ravi Bahadur Rana – Jamshedpur FC
Ravi Bahadur Rana of Jamshedpur FC was one of the best midfielders in the 2019-20 Elite League. He joined the club in 2019 after their scouts were impressed by his performances in Jammu and Kashmir, his home state. In the recently concluded season, he made 20 appearances and scored four goals. He also played an important role as the Boys of Steel topped their group with five wins from six matches and qualified for the final round.
The 17-year-old is basically a goalscoring midfielder. He possesses a very strong right foot and throughout last season, he attempted several shots from outside the 18-yard box. He is also good at dribbling and creating chances for his teammates.
Just like all Jamshedpur FC academy cadets and reserve team players, Ravi Rana is also being trained with the passion and hope that he could represent the Jamshedpur FC senior team someday. Judging from his recent performances, one can conclude that he surely has the ability to get there soon.
5. Rayan Roger Menezes – FC Goa
17-year-old Rayan Roger Menezes is another FC Goa starlet who has attracted headlines by virtue of his performances this season. A defender by trade, Rayan has been with the Gaurs since their inception.
Although, he is a defender, Rayan is a player who can play in different positions. That being said, he is most comfortable as a central defender, as he also has the physical toughness that is required for anyone who plays in that position.
Two minor drawbacks about the player are his speed of thought and pace on the ball – but that is excusable to an extent given his very young age. With time on his side, he can be expected to become one of the country’s best centre-backs provided he continues to work hard.
4. Tekcham Abhishek Singh – Punjab FC
Punjab FC’s left-back Tekcham Abhishek Singh is another emerging player to watch out for. The Manipur-based starlet joined the club from FC Imphal City’s youth team last year and went on to make 21 appearances in his first and only season with them so far.
Tekcham’s technical abilities are what make him stand out among his teammates at Punjab. He is one of their most technically gifted players and is also quite pacy when running with the ball. He also often participates in his team’s attacks and can dribble past opponents and deliver quality crosses. His ability to anticipate opponents’ passes is also quite special.
Punjab conceded just three goals throughout the 2019-20 Elite League season and that proves how effective the 15-year-old and his teammates were at the back.
3. N Sivasakthi – Raman Vijayan Soccer School
Already hailed as the next superstar from Tamil Nadu, N Sivasakthi is a forward who has been earning rave reviews for his goalscoring skills. The 18-year-old was the top scorer of the 2018-19 Elite League and in the following season, he finished at third place in the goalscoring charts.
A product of the Raman Vijayan Soccer School (RVSS), Sivasakthi has been at the academy from the start and is a vital member of their U-18 team. Although, he does not possess an imposing figure, his style of play which involves a lot of dribbling and close control suits him well. He is also extremely quick on the ball. Despite his consistent goalscoring numbers, he is not a typical No.9. He can play all across the front and also as an attacking midfielder through the middle.
In April, Bengaluru FC signed the Tamil Nadu youngster and that has been deemed as a sign of things to come for the talented forward.
2. Bekey Oram – Bengaluru FC
Odisha-based Bekey Oram’s elder brother Rakesh Oram used to play for India’s youth sides and was also a part of the ISL club Mumbai City. But, his younger sibling is the one stealing the limelight these days, thanks to his consistent performances with Bengaluru’s U-18 team.
The 16-year-old joined the club in 2017 and has made over 50 appearances for their youth side. This season he played 30 matches for the club and also scored six goals from midfield. Some of his most important contributions came in the Elite league, where BFC qualified to the final round after finishing the group stage with 11 wins in 12 matches.
A pacey winger with an eye for goal, Oram’s biggest qualities also includes good vision and passing ability. He is also never shy to take shots at goal. He is also known as a versatile player, having donned the roles of right-back, left-back, left-winger and right-winger this campaign.
1. Akshunna Tyagi – Odisha FC
Like Rishabh Dobriyal, Akshunna Tyagi also came into the spotlight at Odisha FC this season, thanks to his brilliant numbers from the 2019-20 Elite League. With a mind-blowing 20 goals from just 14 matches, Tyagi was the top scorer of the competition before the season got suspended.
The 18-year-old striker joined Odisha just before last season. He previously played for Mohun Bagan’s youth team and Meerut DFA before the Juggernauts scouted him and signed him for their youth team. During the course of the Elite League, he showed that he is an intelligent player, who knows where to find space within the opposition’s penalty box and how to use it.
He is also good in combination play, as proved by his brilliant partnership with Dobriyal. As a striker, he can score with both feet and the head as well. The most important thing is that he misses very few chances and converts most goalscoring opportunities.