Some of the best young players from the country have been conferred with the honour.
The Indian Super League (ISL) is the best platform for young Indian players to make a name for themselves. The chance to play with experienced foreign players and showcase your talent in front of the country’s audience is an opportunity of a lifetime.
Over the past seven editions, one young Indian player has been awarded the ISL Emerging Player of the Season award annually. While some of these players have matured, others still have a lot of potential to fulfill.
Here is a look at all the ISL Emerging Player of the Season award winners and where they are now.
Sandesh Jhingan (Kerala Blasters, 2014)
Sandesh Jhingan was the first-ever recipient of the ISL Emerging Player of the Season award. The centre-back was a relatively unknown youngster back then, but impressed everyone with his sensational performances for the Kochi-based outfit.
Jhingan went on a few loan spells at clubs like Sporting Clube de Goa, DSK Shivajians and Bengaluru FC. He completed a permanent switch to ATK Mohun Bagan ahead of the 2020-21 season. The defender is also the first-choice option in defence for the Indian national team.
Jeje Lalpekhlua (Chennaiyin FC, 2015)
The second season of the ISL was a fruitful one for Chennaiyin FC, as they went on to lift the title. Their success can be attributed to one of their impressive Indian players in Jeje Lalpekhlua. The forward scored six goals and provided three assists in 11 games for the Marina Machans.
He was awarded the ISL Emerging Player of the Season award that season. Later, Jeje went on a couple of loan spells to Mohun Bagan in the I-League and also spent a large amount of time nursing injuries. He made a switch to SC East Bengal ahead of the 2020-21 season. He has also represented India at the international level.
Jerry Lalrinzuala (Chennaiyin FC, 2016)
Jerry Lalrinzuala was the second defender to win the ISL Emerging Player of the Season award. He is also the youngest player to win it at the age of 18. Playing for Chennaiyin FC, Jerry showcased an incredible work-rate in his debut season. He went on a short loan to DSK Shivajians in 2016-17.
The left-back has been a regular part of the squad at Chennaiyin FC. He recently signed a new contract with CFC, which will keep him at the club until May 31, 2022. Jerry too has represented the Blue Tigers on a few occasions, but has not impressed on the international stage.
Lalruatthara (Kerala Blasters, 2017-18)
Lalruatthara was signed ahead of the 2017/18 season from Aizawl FC. He had a brilliant debut season in the ISL, winning the ISL Emerging Player of the Season award as a result. The left-back, however, has not lived up to the expectations as much as he would have liked.
The 26-year-old only made five appearances during the 2020-21 campaign for KBFC. His contract with the club is soon to come to an end. It would be interesting to see if the club continues to put faith in him with an extension.
Sahal Abdul Samad (Kerala Blasters FC, 2018-19)
Sahal Abdul Samad has a fan-favorite status at Kerala Blasters. The creative midfielder won the ISL Emerging Player of the Season award after his performances in the 2018-19 season, which was the second year for the player with the outfit. He played in 17 matches and impressed fans and neutrals alike with his control and technique on the ball.
However, he has rather failed to live up to the massive expectations. He struggled to feature under Eelco Schattorie in the following season and played 14 games under Kibu Vicuna in 2020-21. The 24-year-old has also featured for the national team under Igor Stimac, but the player has a long way to go as far as fulfilling his potential is concerned. He is contracted with KBFC until May 31, 2025.
Sumit Rathi (ATK, 2019-20)
Sumit Rathi won the ISL Emerging Player of the Season award in 2019-20 while playing for ATK. The left-footed defender joined from Indian Arrows and was exceptional for the Kolkata-based outfit, fulfilling multiple roles in defence. His wor-krate and maturity beyond his years were particularly notable.
Sumit Rathi is contracted with ATK Mohun Bagan until May 31, 2025. After a disappointing 2020-21 season, the Uttar Pradesh-born player will hope to regain his form and play more regularly for the Mariners. He featured only six times, playing 255 minutes last season.
Lalengmawia (NorthEast United FC, 2020-21)
Lalengmawia, also known as ‘Apuia’, was the winner of the ISL Emerging Player of the Season award in the recently concluded seventh edition. The central midfielder blossomed into one of the league’s best Indian players in his second season with the Highlanders.
The 20-year-old also earned a national team call-up thanks to his performances in midfield. He was exceptional for the Blue Tigers as well, emerging as one of the most composed players on the ball against tougher opponents. Apuia has another year on his contract with NEUFC. However, several top clubs are interested in signing him.