The region boasts of enough talent to field a fine starting XI in the ISL.
The Northeast region of India is famous for the footballing talents it harbours, and all the clubs of the Indian Super League (ISL) are filled with players who are from the region. However, the supply of elite footballers isn’t just restricted to those teams. As many as eight players from the states of Northeast India were included in the 28-men squad of the Indian football team for the recent international friendlies against Oman and UAE.
This left us wondering – what if the ISL outfit NorthEast United were made up only of players from their own region? On that note, here’s an XI comprising fully of Northeast-based players featuring in the ISL.
Goalkeeper: Dheeraj Singh
After his recent heroics in the AFC Champions League, there was little doubt who the goalkeeper was going to be. Dheeraj put up a brilliant display against Asia’s elite, managing to keep two clean sheets in FC Goa’s first two games. His performances also saw him feature in the Champions League team of the week for two gameweeks in a row. It is safe to say that there is no replacing the youngster in this starting XI.
Right-back: Reagan Singh
At the right-back position we have Reagan Singh. The former NorthEast United right back has been one of Chennaiyin FC’s frequent starters, making 17 appearances in the recently concluded 2020-21 ISL season. The Manipur-born defender is one of those players who is never the star of the team but always gets his job done.
Centre-back: Sandeep Singh
Kerala Blasters’ Sandeep Singh starts in the centre-back position. The 26-year-old Manipuri defender made 14 appearances for the Yellow Army last season. A versatile player, the former TRAU defender can also play as a right-back, as he has done for the Blasters on many occasions.
Centre-back: Chinglensana Singh
Accompanying Sandeep in defence would be fellow-Manipuri Chinglensana Singh, also referred to as Sana. The 24-year-old made as many as 18 appearances for Hyderabad FC last season and was a key part of the Nizams’ team that narrowly missed out a top-four finish. His performances last season earned him a first ever call up in the Indian football team, with who he made his debut against Oman.
Left-back: Jerry Lalrinzuala
At left-back we have Jerry Lalrinzuala. The youngster has made 76 appearances for the Marina Machans and has also won the Indian Super League (ISL) title with them. The 22-year-old also won the ISL ‘Emerging Player of the Season’ award back in 2016. Additionally, the defender has been a part of the Indian football team and has made nine appearances for the Blue Tigers.
Central defensive midfielder: Lalengmawia
Lalengmawia, also referred to as Apuia was one of the superstars of the ISL last season. The 20-year-old played a major role in NorthEast United’s third place-finish in ISL 2020-21. The Mizo youngster is a classic box-to-box midfielder who is very comfortable with the ball at his feet. Last season, Apuia also became the youngest player to ever captain an ISL side and won the ISL ‘Emerging Player of the Season’ award.
Central defensive midfielder: Jeakson Singh
Jeakson Singh made his name immortal in Indian football when he became the first Indian to score in a FIFA World Cup. The Kerala Blasters midfielder hasn’t looked back since taking the limelight in the U-17 FIFA World Cup back in 2017. The 19-year old made 16 appearances as a midfielder for Kerala Blasters last season and also managed to score his first senior goal. His performances earned him a place in the Indian football team where he made his debut against Oman.
Central attacking midfielder: Jerry Mawihmingthanga
At the No.10 position we have 24-year-old Jerry Mawihmingthanga. The Odisha FC forward has been one of the most consistent Indian forwards in the ISL in recent seasons. Jerry made 17 appearances for the Juggernauts last season, and also managed to score 2 goals and provide with 5 assists despite Odisha’s poor performance. The youngster has a knack of creating chances and can also play as a winger.
Right-winger: Bipin Singh
26-year-old Bipin Singh, hailing from the Northeast state of Manipur just had a season to remember in the ISL. Bipin won the League Shield and also the ISL trophy with Mumbai City. He also scored the only hat-trick of the season in Mumbai’s 6-1 win against Odisha. The winger was a constant starter in a team full of superstars and made 19 appearances for the title winners. He also scored 5 goals and provided with 4 assists during the campaign. Later, the winger made his Indian football team debut in the friendly against Oman.
Left-winger: Lallianzuala Chhangte
Starting in the left-wing would be the 23-year-old Lallianzuala Chhangte. The Mizo forward made 20 appearances for the Marina Manchas last season and scored 4 goals. Known for his incredible pace, Chhangte is also known as the ‘Mizo Flash’. The former Delhi Dynamos winger has also been a part of the Indian football team since 2015 and has made 13 appearances for them and scored 4 goals.
Centre-forward: Halicharan Narzary
26-year-old Halicharan Narzary will be featuring as the striker of the team, despite mainly playing as a winger in most of his clubs. The Assamese forward has travelled around in the ISL playing for different clubs such as NorthEast United, Chennaiyin and Kerala Blasters. Currently plying his trade at Hyderabad FC, Narzary made 20 appearances for them and was a crucial part of the team that only missed the playoffs by a narrow margin. He also managed to score four goals despite playing predominantly as a winger.