These talents will be hoping to make an impression on the league this time around.
The I-League has always given a platform to budding young players to succeed, resulting in the emergence of a number of prominent Indian footballers over the years. With the absence of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, the league will definitely have a changed reputation and perhaps be more open-ended than usual this season.
With the entire competition set to be played in Kolkata, games will come at a rapid pace and youngsters like RoundGlass Punjab FC’s Bikash Yumnam (who recently featured in The Guardian’s ‘Next Generation’ top 60 list) will get more chances to prove themselves. A number of other prominent individuals blessed with their own unique abilities are ready to take the league by storm and raise its entertainment levels over the next few months. We look at the 10 youngsters to watch out for in the upcoming season.
10. Seiminmang Manchong (TRAU FC)
The former Odisha FC man has joined up with TRAU FC and will hope to make an impact in the I-League after failing to get many minutes in the Indian Super League (ISL) last season. Manchong was pretty impressive for Odisha’s reserves side in the Second Division League in the 2017-18 season, scoring four goals in nine games.
The 20-year-old has only grown as a striker and gained from the ISL experience since then. The clinical, fast-paced attacker will look to light up TRAU’s frontline and use the I-League as a ladder to get back to the top table of Indian football.
9. Gurkirat Singh (Indian Arrows)
After only making seven appearances for the Indian Arrows over the last few seasons, Gurkirat Singh is now ready to take that step forward into the limelight. With Arrows’ prime talents like Vikram Pratap Singh, Akash Mishra, Givson Singh and more having been promoted into the ISL scene, Gurkirat will now look to prove his mettle this time around.
The 17-year-old is a jack of all trades, being able to play as a defender or as a striker. He will mostly play as a forward for Arrows and look to provide firepower with his physique. Gurkirat is very good in the air and has that clinical touch about him, being able to set-up or score goals with efficiency.
8. Lalhmangaihkima (Aizawl FC)
The young winger showed signs of promise for Aizawl FC last season, helping them produce some exciting football under Stanley Rozario. Lalhmangaihkima’s versatility in being able to play in a number of roles in attack can work to his advantage, as he will aim to use his unpredictability to hurt opponents.
The 21-year-old’s blessed with impressive creativity and ability to run with the ball. He’ll aim to create a bulk of the chances and get more involved in scoring for his side in the upcoming season.
7. Lovepreet Singh (Sudeva FC)
After being loaned out to Sudeva FC by Kerala Blasters, Lovepreet Singh will aim to thrive under the pressure of his first prominent season in the I-League. The 6’3” goalkeeper is a mammoth figure and can use that to his advantage to protect debutants Sudeva FC from trouble during the campaign.
Along with his ability to collect long balls and crosses into the box efficiently, Lovepreet is also a solid shot-stopper, who was impressive in the Indian Arrows’ setup before his move to Kerala. With the Blasters tracking his progress at Sudeva, the youngster will aim to come up with some big performances and solidify his claim for a spot in Blasters’ senior team next season.
6. Syed Suhail Pasha (Chennai City FC)
Being the son of former India international Syed Sabir Pasha, Suhail has a lot of weight on his shoulders to live up to his family’s reputation in Indian football. The 21-year-old had a decent debut campaign with Chennai City FC, being involved in a few goals and looking really dangerous with his clever movement in the final third. Now, he will aim to take that one step further by continuing his development.
Suhail has shown the traits of an impactful player in the final third, but he’ll need to improve his final product to produce more goals and assists. With Chennai looking to reclaim their I-League title this season, an unpredictable domestic star like Pasha will be key in helping them challenge for the crown.
5. Ruivah Hormipam (RoundGlass Punjab FC)
Ruivah Hormipam made quite an impact for Indian Arrows in his debut season, but has now received a move to become part of potential title challengers for the coming season. RoundGlass Punjab FC have created a formidable setup, but the young centre-back can be the one who helps them lead the way. Hormipam is a leader at the back, who takes matters into his own hands with crunching challenges and timely interceptions.
He was awarded the Man of the Match in his I-League debut against Gokulam Kerala last season and never looked back. Hormipam will be under pressure due to the intense schedule and level of competition, but the youngster should thrive under it.
4. Manvir Singh (Sudeva FC)
He’s not quite like his namesake who is shaking things up in the ISL as part of ATK Mohun Bagan, but Sudeva FC’s Manvir Singh also has the potential of shaking up the I-League this season. Sudeva made quite a statement by signing him from Kerala Blasters last year and will hope their faith will be repaid.
Manvir is a hard-working player who can trouble defenders with his clever movement and ability to set up things for teammates. He could end up leading the line for the I-League debutants and will aim to prove his ability by finding the net regularly.
3. Manoj Mohammed (Mohammedan SC)
Manoj Mohammed actually had his breakthrough with East Bengal in the 2018-19 season when they came very close to winning the title under Alejandro Menendez. After failing to get many appearances last time around, the youngster has changed sides to join Mohammedan SC for their first campaign back in the I-League.
Mohammed showed signs of being a disciplined, hard-working defender a few years ago and there definitely is promise in him. The youngster just needs to be more consistent with his performances, improve his decision-making at the back and use his intelligence to consolidate a regular role with the Black Panthers.
2. Ricky Shabong (Indian Arrows)
After being one of the pillars of the Indian Arrows team last season, Ricky Shabong will see a spike in his responsibilities this time around. With most of Arrows’ big stars now having left, he is actually one of the more senior members of the young team and will look to lead from the front.
The defensive midfielder is rock-solid in the middle of the park, having the ability to expertly break down attacks and make clutch tackles to regain possession. Moreover, Shabong is also blessed with a wide passing range, which helps him transition from defence to attack quickly. He’ll need to be a bit more strong, both physically and mentally, to succeed this season.
1. Bidyashagar Singh (TRAU FC)
Bidyashagar Singh never really received his opportunities to break through at East Bengal, who kept him in the shadows forcing the youngster to look for another home. He’s has one at TRAU now. Singh is a really mobile individual who loves to get into promising spaces in the final third, destabilizing defenders and being a real spark for his side in the frontline.
He scored five goals in the 2019 Durand Cup for the Red & Gold Brigade and will aim to prove his ability this time around. Singh has an eye for goal and creativity to pick out his teammates, but he needs to be consistent and brave with his performances to realize his high potential this season.