These youngsters have turned the attention of many with their brilliant performances in the third tier last season.

The 2019-20 season of the I-League 2nd Division saw 17 teams take part including the reserve sides of eight Indian Super League outfits and one I-League outfit. Unfortunately, the campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic and a decision on promotion of the teams remains to be taken.

Yet, the I-League 2nd Division has always been stepping stone to success for many Indian clubs and players. Teams like Aizawl FC and Punjab FC not only gained the promotion from the I-League 2nd Division but also went on to win their maiden I-League titles. Moreover, current Indian national team players like Farukh Choudhary, Adil Khan and Sahal Abdul Samad have all plied their trade in the 2nd Division once.

In this article, we look at five emerging young players who impressed last season:

5. Gaurav Rawat (Garhwal FC)

Gaurav Rawat, who plies his trade for new entrants and community-based Delhi club Garhwal FC made a name for himself with his brilliant performances last season. The 20-year-old defensive midfielder was scouted from Dehradun’s Bhaichung Bhutia Football School (BBFS) in 2015 by current head coach Vikas Rawat and has developed himself in its Delhi academy. Since then, the young lad has been regular in the youth leagues and the Delhi League.

A lanky midfielder, Rawat does all the dirty work in the middle of the park and has been quite good in one-on-one situations and also in air. In the 2019-20 I-League 2nd Division, he featured in six out of seven games for the Delhi-based team.

4. Senthamizhi S (Chennaiyin FC Reserves)

Senthamizhi is one of those power-packed modern wingers with a raw talent. His pace and dribbling skills make him stand out with regards to other forwards in the team. Senthamizhi was scouted by the Marina Machans in the trials organized by the club before the beginning of the last season.

Looking at his versatility, the reserves’ head coach Santosh Kashyap has used the 19-year-old in multiple positions in the past season. Moreover, the youngster is one of the strongest players in the team despite and has also scored three goals for the Marina Machans in seven games including a brace against Mohammedan SC.

3. Amey Bhatkal (FC Bengaluru United)

The FC Bengaluru United striker has quite an interesting story of his football career. The Mumbai-based player never went to a football academy until he was 18 years old. That is when he was scouted by PIFA Colaba and went on to play in the U-18 I-League for the side. After his stint at PIFA, he went to play for another Mumbai outfit Air India with whom he won two MDFA titles. It was at Air India, Bhatkal developed a tactical understanding of the game.

His quickness on his feet and ability to take-on opposition defenders one-on-one, are the key attributes of his game. The youngster has also scored seven goals and delivered three assists in 12 games in the BDFA League. Having also scored a solitary goal last season in the 2nd Division I-League for the new-comers, he makes our list of the emerging players in 2019-20.

2. Sanjib Ghosh (Mohammedan SC)

One of the lesser-talked Kolkata giants Mohammedan Sporting are on course to revive their lost glory in the national circuit as they look to pave their way back in the I-League. Before the suspension of the 2nd Division I-League, they were on top of the Group A standings and Sanjib Ghosh emerged as one of the bright stars of the 2019-20 season.

Ghosh joined Mohammedan’s youth setup in 2015 and has been a regular starter in the youth teams ever since. His exploits in the Zee Bangla League caught the eye of the then head coach Subrata Bhattacharya who called him to train with the senior team. Interestingly, he also scored the fastest goal in the league last season on his 2nd division debut. The 19-year-old began as a striker in his youth but now plays as a winger and has scored a couple of goals in six games for the Black Panthers.

1. Shoaib Syed (ARA FC)

Shoaib Syed is the highest scorer of the league this season with seven goals. He has notched up two hat-tricks and incidentally both came against the reserve team of Mumbai City FC. Coming from the ranks at Pune FC as a promising teenager, Syed made a bright start to his career in I-League.

Unfortunately, during the same period he suffered a horrific ankle injury that kept him on the sidelines for a long time. He then went on to play for Gokulam Kerala FC but couldn’t find his lost charm. The 23-year-old versatile striker has however, revived himself with the Ahmedabad-based outfit and has also led them to the top of the Group C.

Shoaib Syed is a versatile attacker and is an outstanding finisher. His goal-scoring heroics certainly make him one of the best emerging players in the 2019-20 season of the I-League 2nd Division.

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