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I-League 2023-24: Gyamar Nikum named Best Emerging Player

Published at :April 25, 2024 at 11:07 PM
Modified at :April 25, 2024 at 11:07 PM
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(Courtesy : AIFF media)

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Gyamar Nikum played 22 games for Inter Kashi in I-League 2023-24.

The journey of any footballer is strewn with struggles aplenty. Many have to grind it out in the academies and lower leagues before they get their due opportunities at the professional level. Inter Kashi’s Gyamar Nikum, however, has had a meteoric rise through the ranks in the last three years. The 19-year-old has improved to the point that he was named the Best Emerging Player of the season, after his performance in the I-League.

“I had no idea that I was named the Best Emerging player, when it was announced. I was in my hometown, where we don’t get much network,” said Nikum, who hails from a small town on the Indo-China border, called Kurung Kumey, in Arunachal Pradesh. Nikum only came to know about the development a day later, when he was informed of the same by his friends.

“I did not believe it first, so I went to an area where we do get network and check it out for myself. Everyone was very happy once I informed them of it,” he said.

I-League 2023-24: Gyamar Nikum named Best Emerging Player.
Gyamar Nikum with the ball in his feet. (Image Source: AIFF)

While it seems like Nikum has been around for some time, he was not able to play a full season prior to the current campaign. The 19-year-old played 22 matches for Inter Kashi in the I-League, scoring four goals and the same number of assists.

The youngster signed up with Rajasthan United in 2021, and played one and a half seasons at the club, before moving to Mumbai City FC in January, 2023. As it was difficult to get game time in a side that challenges for the Indian Super League title, Nikum took a loan move to Inter Kashi, a transfer that seems to have done wonders for him.

“This was the best season I’ve had so far. I didn’t get so many opportunities to play when I was in my first season at Rajasthan United (2021-22), but I think my performances in the next season were quite good, which is why I got the opportunity to play for Mumbai,” he said. “So getting a full season under my belt was important.

“Everyone was very supportive, right from the management, to the coaches, the players, and the support staff. The overall environment at the club was just great, so I really learned a lot. I am very thankful that I got the opportunity to come to this club on loan this season,” said Nikum.

I-League 2023-24: Gyamar Nikum named Best Emerging Player.
Gyamar Nikum in action. (Image Source: AIFF)

For Inter Kashi, who finished fourth in the I-League this season, it was not always an easy ride. The newly-formed club, with its band of new recruits, who for the most part, had not played alongside each other, struggled in the initial part of the season. During the first phase, they could garner only four victories. However, it was in the second phase that the club got together to rack up the wins, seven in all.

“It was quite difficult for us in the first phase. Took us a fair bit of time to understand our strengths and weaknesses, and figure out how we could operate alongside each other,” said Nikum. “But as we kept playing together, the results started to come, especially in the second half of the league. We grew more confident, and managed to put a good run together.” Inter Kashi ended the season on an 11-match unbeaten run.

A sought-after footballer among youngsters

While Nikum’s climb through the ranks in the last three years has been quite a steep one, the youngster came out of the literal wilderness in footballing terms. Having picked up the sport at school, the creative midfielder was looking for academies to join, and was finally invited for trials at Rajasthan United, after he contacted the club through social media.

“I did not have much idea about how to go about the whole process. So when I got to know that Rajasthan United are recruiting players for their academy, I contacted them over social media, and they offered me a trial,” said Nikum. He has not looked back since.

I-League 2023-24: Gyamar Nikum named Best Emerging Player.
Gyamar Nikum takes a shot. (Image Source: AIFF)

Nikum spent only half a year in the academy, as he was soon drafted into the senior team for the 2021-22 season.

“My parents were initially not too keen on the whole thing, but I convinced them that I wanted to give it a try. Once I made the senior team, they were happy. Now, they are very supportive,” he said.

While Nikum has made it to the top rungs of Indian Football, he feels that there are many others in his state, who can make a similar journey.

“The passion and love for football in Arunachal Pradesh is immense. We saw in the Santosh Trophy, how many fans came out to watch the matches, even when Arunachal were not playing,” he said. “People travel from far and wide to watch the Arunachal league and local matches. I feel that there are many talented players there, who have the potential to go to the top level.”

He may only be 19 years old, but Nikum has already become a role model for the aspiring youngsters of Arunachal football.

“I would love to see more players from my state get opportunities to play in the I-League or ISL. I get a lot of calls from parents who are not sure of what path to take for their kids if they want to get into football. We have not had many from the state who have done well at the top level, so parents are always unsure.“But I always try to advise them on what to do. Even if some of them make it to academies and then to clubs after seeing me as an example, I would consider that as a success,” he said.

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