With many of it’s established stars having departed for pastures the league was always expected to throw up some interesting new talent but you may not have expected these names to feature.
Indian Super League has been just what Indian football needed – a competition that engrossed more money and more fans in Indian football. It has been a tournament where one could perhaps find the one big superstar that Indian football has been looking for. Many senior footballers added on to their reputation with some match-winning performances while many youngsters have upped their ante to compete against the first-rates in ISL.
Just like ISL, I-League itself has this season been a breakthrough one for many young footballers. I-League although has lacked the hula-hoops and glamour of Indian Super League, but there has been no absence of talent or technical expertise. In fact, I-League and talent go hand in hand according to some well-known journalists and die-hard fans. Many young footballers have caught the eye of fans and now are dreaming of representing the national side, thereby reaching the pinnacle of their career.
Khel Now takes a look at five such footballers from I-League who shocked everyone with their performances this season.
5. Sukhdev Singh
Sukhdev Singh, arguably the best defender on the list, is a regular starter for Minerva Punjab as well as the captain of the side. Singh have featured in the majority of the games for the Warriors until now. A disciplined defender, the 26-year-old have made a name for himself for his well-timed tackles. Apart from his defending abilities, throws have been one of Singh’s strong suit which have helped his side create multiple chances this season.
The Minerva Punjab skipper has also scored contributing to the offensive department. His goal against East Bengal won his side a crucial point in an away game. With the likes of Anas Edathodika nearing the wrong side of 30’s, it is good to see defenders stepping up to compete for a place in the national side.
4. Bali Gagandeep
Bali Gagandeep has been an important piece of the puzzle for Khogen Singh this season
Bali has turned out to be a really versatile player for Minerva Punjab FC this season, having played in positions as a second striker, striker and even a left-back for the Warriors! He’s probably been at his best as the man up-front where he’s scored quite a few goals for Punjab and helped them earn precious points. Bali has been really dangerous in attack where his hold-up play has been excellent as well as his link-up play with Chencho and William Opoku.
The experienced customer has drafted into the role of the left-back and played pretty well when asked to, but it’s without a doubt that his best position is that of a striker. Bali was especially excellent when he scored a brace and won Minerva the thrilling match against Shillong Lajong and became a hometown hero on the day.
3. Ronald Singh
Neroca FC have managed to be the real surprise packages in the I-League this season and have been helped by a very good core of Indian players, with Ronald Singh being especially impressive this season. The young striker mostly featured as a substitute for the Orange Army but has helped them win many crucial points by playing the role of a super-sub and scoring against Gokulam Kerala FC and Chennai City FC.
The quick, intelligent striker has been difficult to contain for many teams and has a break-through season for the Orange Army, who themselves have surprised many with their performances so far. Ronald seems to have everything to be a lethal striker in the future and looks set to improve even more as he gains experience at the top tier of Indian Football.
2. Samuel Lalmuanpuia
The 19-year-old captain have had a mixed season leading his side this year
Samuel Lalmuanpuia has been a vital clog for Shillong Lajong this season and their youngest ever captain at the age of 19 has been a key figure in their attacking style of football this season. While Lalmuanpuia might have only scored a few goals in this campaign, he leads from the front when it comes to attacking and often tries to create opportunities for his side. He’s been extremely influential for them in the attacking end and manages to shine through whenever they are performing well.
Lalmuanpuia seems to have upped his game this season after being handed the arm-band by his club and has put in a string of impressive performances which prove just how much of a bright talent he is for the country.
The only redemption in Chennai City FC’s rather poor season, Michael Soosairaj looks to have benefited from the short stint he had along with three other fellow Chennai City FC players at the Finnish club, JS Hercules. Such has been his impact on the fans that one can easily find fans already vouching for his name for a place in the National side.
Soosairaj, the 23-year-old midfielder from Tamil Nadu, has just two seasons of senior football under his belt but one could hardly infer that after looking him marshall the midfield for the Chennai side. Soosairaj is an ace at both scoring goals and defending goals for his team and hence happens to be a vital cog in this side that has seen some big names leave for cash-rich sides.
Soosairaj has this season started all but one match, and that means he has already eclipsed his previous season’s numbers.