The recently concluded campaign saw several starlets putting in amazing performances on a regular basis.
One would be hard-pressed to find a time in Indian football history when there was as much focus on youth development as there is currently. With the Under 23 boys currently engaged in AFC Asian Cup U-23 Qualifiers, the buzz in the football circuit is growth and laying a foundation for the future.
The league season has also just ended, and as an Indian football fan, it is pleasing to note that there have been several starlets across the I-League and the Indian Super League who have made quite a name for themselves.
Here are the five most talented youngsters to have made their mark this season:
5. Phrangki Buam
When Shillong Lajong announced that they would only play academy graduates in their team this season, there were a lot of keen eyes following their campaign. They may have finished at the bottom of the league, but the Meghalayan outfit has gifted us with Phrangki Buam.
Buam was Shillong Lajong’s highest scorer last season
The 18-year-old has been a standout player this season, netting on six occasions and having impressed with his skills, maturity and blistering pace. He usually plays as a center-forward but is equally comfortable out wide or as a withdrawn striker. He ended the season as the club’s joint top scorer, having impressed many a bigger outfit. Buam is definitely one to watch out for with his agent most likely being flooded by offers for the next season already.
4. Prabhsukhan Gill
A product of the AIFF Elite Academy, Prabhsukhan Gill is a goalkeeper who can be entrusted to replicate the achievements of Subrata Paul and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the coming years. The 18-year old had a phenomenal season under the crossbars for Indian Arrows and was pivotal to the experimental side finishing Gokulam Kerala and defending champions Minerva Punjab.
Gill’s development has been noteworthy for the Indian Arrows this season
Currently engaged with the Indian U-23 side in Uzbekistan, Gill is an extremely good shot-stopper but has to work on his distribution and on-the-ball skills, which is a mandatory requirement for all goalies in this day and age. He has time on his side, which means there is a lot of room to improve. The start is right, and the talent is there, Gill just needs to keep improving now.
3. Mohammad Nawaz
Alongside Gill, Mohammad Nawaz has made a real impression under the bars this season. He started poorly for FC Goa, conceding a cheap goal against North East United FC. However, he returned to form strong and underlined his class, and earned praise for both fans and critics.
Nawaz had one of the best saves percentage in the ISL this season
Despite being only 19 years old, Nawaz is already one of the most complete goalkeepers in the circuit. He made it to the ISL Final this season, impressing one and all with his reflexes and on-the-ball abilities. His save-per-goal ratio is the highest in the league, which further strengthens his case. Between him, Gill and Dheeraj Singh, India already has it’s next generation of goalkeepers ready to don the national team colors.
2. Gaurav Bora
Touted as one of the hottest prospects in Indian football currently, Gaurav Bora is one of the finds of the I-league season. A center-back by trade, the FC Pune City loanee made his name for Chennai City FC this season. The Assamese ended up winning the coveted league title, with his brace against Minerva Punjab ultimately sealing the deal for the Southerners.
Bora (right) scored a brace in the final day of the I-League against Minerva Punjab
Bora, however, made his mark way back. His athleticism, positional understanding and ability to communicate on-pitch with everyone around him made him a lynchpin in Chennai‘s defence. Currently in Uzbekistan as well, the 20-year-old will be inundated with offers once he returns but he must choose wisely if he is to continue developing as well as he has so far.
1. Sahal Abdul Samad
A promising midfielder who goes by the adage “The Indian Ozil”, Sahal Abdul Samad was one of the few bright spots in Kerala Blasters’ season. A midfielder by trade, he was adjudged as the “ISL Emerging Player of the Season” which is a rich testament to his abilities.
Sahal proved to be a threat to be reckoned with this season
Currently, in Uzbekistan, Samad caught the eye with his precision passing and his work rate. A robust player, he averages more than 2 tackles a game and has a passing accuracy of over 69%. The 21-year-old has shown a lot of promise, and one can only hope he continues to grow as well as he has thus far.