These promising talents have impressed in the Indian Super League this season.
On Tuesday, head coach Igor Stimac named the list of 35 probables for the Indian football team ahead of the upcoming international friendlies against Oman and the UAE. The games will be held in Dubai on March 25 and March 29 respectively. Out of the list of 35 probables, 10 are new faces.
While speaking about the new names following the announcement, Stimac commented that he is keen to meet them. “It’s been a difficult year for all of us and finally, we are all getting together. It will be great to meet some new young guns and to check how bright our future is with them,” the All India Football Federation (AIFF) quoted the Croatian as saying.
Meanwhile, here at Khel Now we have zeroed in on a list of top five youngsters called up by the Indian football team head coach. Each of these players are aged 22 or younger.
5. Suresh Singh Wangjam (Bengaluru FC)
Suresh Wangjam’s earliest claim to fame happened in 2017 when he became part of the Indian Arrows setup. In the two years that followed, he played 29 I-League games for them and during this period, also represented the national team at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017.
The 20-year-old signed for Bengaluru FC ahead of the 2019-20 season. In his 2020-21 league campaign, Wangjam made 19 appearances and clocked 1543 minutes on the pitch. He scored a goal as well, but his best contributions came in midfield, where he attempted over 600 passes with an accuracy of 72.42%.
The midfielder has now been called up to the national team on the back of his strong performances for the Blues. He is definitely one of the Indian starlets to watch out for in the future.
4. Ishan Pandita (FC Goa)
Ishan Pandita is just 22, but he has already been quite the journeyman. Hailing from Jammu and Kashmir, he was born in New Delhi before moving to the Philippines and later Bengaluru. In 2014, the youngster left for Spain and developed his gameplay at UD Almeria’s youth academy. Two years later, he became the first Indian to sign a professional contract with a LaLiga club, after joining CD Leganes.
Stints at Leganes’ U-19 team, Nastic de Tarragona’s U-23 team and Lorca FC followed, before Pandita returned to his home country last year. Shortly after, he signed for FC Goa and is currently enjoying a fantastic season with them.
In nine matches so far, the forward has played a total of just 56 minutes, as the Gaurs’ head coach Juan Ferrando preferred him to be a substitute for the vastly-experienced Igor Angulo. Despite that, he was able to make an impact with four goals. Each of them came at crucial moments, which has collectively resulted in FC Goa reaching the playoffs.
3. Akash Mishra (Hyderabad FC)
Very few players completed 20 appearances and clocked 1800 minutes in the ISL 2020-21 league stage. One of them is Hyderabad’s Akash Mishra. He broke into the scene in 2015, after being chosen to spend three years training in Germany through the trials conducted by U Dream Football Academy.
After returning to India, he was selected into the India U-18 national team and was a part of the side that lifted the SAFF Championship. A year later, he joined the Indian Arrows and played in the I-League for a season, before signing for the Nizams ahead of the 2020-21 season.
The 20-year-old registered an assist and attempted 827 passes with an accuracy of nearly 69%. With 80 tackles, 55 interceptions, 48 clearances and 30 blocks, he was also a rock in the HFC defence and seldom had an off day.
2. Lalengmawia (NorthEast United FC)
NorthEast United are enjoying a historic season right now, after having qualified for the ISL playoffs only for the second time in their history. The performances of youngsters like Lalengmawia helped them standout from the other clubs.
The Mizoram-born midfielder was the only player from his state to make it into India’s squad for the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Afterwards, he joined Indian Arrows and played in the 2018-19 I-League before moving to NorthEast United. At his new club, the 20-year-old established himself as a starter very quickly and ended up playing 10 games in the 2019-20 ISL.
This season, the youngster featured in all 20 matches for NEUFC in the league stage and maintained a passing accuracy of 75.38% during this period. He also scored a goal from long-range against Kerala Blasters last week, his first-ever in the league. A lot of eyes will be on Lalengmawia if he gets the chance to feature in the Indian football team in the upcoming friendlies.
1. Liston Colaco (Hyderabad FC)
We feel that Hyderabad FC’s Liston Colaco is the best find of Indian football this season in the ISL. Prior to the start of the season, he had already proved himself at various levels of the game in the country. For instance, in the 2016-17 Goa Professional League, he won the top scorer award as his team Salgaocar FC lifted the title.
Soon afterwards, FC Goa signed him, but he was limited to just five ISL appearances with them in the first two seasons. Halfway through 2019-20, the 22-year-old joined Hyderabad and showed signs of returning to his golden days with two goals before the end of the campaign.
This season, Colaco continued from where he left off last time, scoring twice and registering three assists in 19 appearances for the Nizams. Their head coach Manolo Marquez preferred him as a substitute and that led to the youngster earning the tag of a ‘super-sub.’ The Goa-based forward bailed HFC out on numerous occasions and almost led them to the playoffs. It can be said without a tinge of doubt that Liston Colaco’s name will be seen more regularly in Indian football circles in the years to come.