Several individual players made a mark this season with top performances consistently.
The I-League 2021-22 ended with a nail-biting decider between Gokulam Kerala FC and Mohammedan SC. Reigning champions GKFC managed to defend the league title to finish atop the points table. The league organisers did a good job despite the early hiccups due to breaches in the secure bio-bubble. Overall, the league delivered on quality and entertainment.
The campaign saw several players take the stage and make the most of the opportunities. I-League hosts plenty of excellent players, both domestic and foreign. Over the course of the season, some individuals consistently delivered for their respective clubs.
Looking back at the heavily entertaining season, here is the I-League 2021-22 Team of the Season:
GoalKeeper: Bhaskar Roy (Rajasthan United)
Bhaskar Roy was the standout goalkeeper during the 2021-22 season of the I-League. Playing for new league entrants Rajasthan United, the custodian was a consistent performer. Across the campaign, he kept eight clean-sheets, the most by any goalkeeper in the division. Winning the Golden Glove award was well-deserved for the custodian who makes it into the TOTT.
Right-Back: Suresh Meitei (Churchill Brothers)
Churchill Brothers could not win the league, but Suresh Meitei was one of the few positives. The defender was solid in his duties, playing as a right-back and occasionally shifting in as a centre-back too. The 28-year-old showed composure throughout the season. He was the fourth highest with 85 ball recoveries.
Centre-Back: Shaher Shaheen (Mohammedan SC)
Shaher Shaheen’s first taste of Indian football had an almost perfect end. The defender played for Mohammedan SC after signing from Al-Ittihad SC. The Syrian centre-back made a huge difference to the Black Panthers’ defence and led by example to keep the team in contention for the title till the last fixture. He won 46 air duels, which was the fifth-highest mark in the league.
Centre-Back: Bouba Aminou (Gokulam Kerala)
Bouba Aminou was central to Gokulam Kerala FC’s success in the campaign. The 31-year-old arrived from Eding Sport FC in Cameroon to guide the club to becoming champions for the second successive time. Statistically, the centre-back was head and shoulders above the rest. He had the highest ball recoveries (116), highest interceptions (113) and won third-highest air challenges (58).
Left-Back: Lalchungnunga (Sreenidi Deccan)
Sreenidi Deccan FC had a very impressive debut campaign in the I-League. Lalchungnunga was one of their star performers. The defender ended the season with four assists, only second to Nikola Stojanovic’s tally of seven. He was most impressive playing as a left-back and occasionally played as a centre-back. The 21-year-old also made 35 crosses, the fourth-highest in the league.
Defensive Midfielder: Phalguni Singh (Sreenidi Deccan)
Phalguni Singh was also impressive for Sreenidi Deccan FC. The 27-year-old midfielder was superb in the centre and kept his composure in tough situations. He also scored one goal and made one assist from 17 appearances. His ability to provide cover to defence and also contribute to the attack was noteworthy.
Defensive Midfielder: Jiteshwor Singh (Neroca FC)
Neroca FC had a mediocre season as it finished in fifth place on the points table. However, one of the silver linings of the season was the performance by Jiteshwor Singh. The 20-year-old was very dominant and showed maturity beyond his years in the defensive midfield role. Moreover, Jiteshwor played the most number of minutes in the league, clocking in with 1211 minutes of gametime.
Central Midfielder: Nikola Stojanovic (Mohammedan SC)
Nikola Stojanovic was exceptional for Mohammedan SC. He was arguably the best midfielder in the league and captained the team by example. The Serbian was one of the most influential foreigners and led the assists charts with seven. Furthermore, he scored twice and helped the Black Panthers mount a strong title challenge. He also made the most number of passes (858) in the league.
Right Midfielder: Brandon Vanlalremdika (Mohammedan SC)
Brandon Vanlalremdika was very influential for Mohammedan SC during the term. The 28-year-old finished with four assists, joint-top with Lalchungnunga among the Indians and third-highest overall. Brandon also made 16 key passes during the season, which was the fifth-highest for any player.
Left Midfielder: Jithin MS (Gokulam Kerala)
Gokulam Kerela’s Indian players were as important as the foreigners. Jithin MS was amongst the best performing domestic players. He scored four goals to finish as one of the highest-scoring Indians in the league. The attacker collected his second I-League title with the Malabarians and has a bright future ahead.
Striker: Marcus Joseph (Mohammedan SC)
Marcus Joseph made a huge impact on Mohammedan SC’s performance in the league. He finished as the top scorer in the competition with 16 goals. The striker took 53 attempts on goal, which was also the highest for any player in the division. The Black Panthers will find it hard to retain the forward who will certainly attract attention. Not to forget, Joseph won the golden boot twice in Durand Cup 2021-22.