Some of these youngsters displayed terrific performance in the previous I-League campaign.
Over the years, the Indian Arrows have promoted several youngsters who have developed themselves into household names in Indian football. Starting from the likes of Jeje Lalpekhlua, Pritam Kotal, Gurpreet Singh Sandu to recent graduates like Asish Rai, Akash Mishra, Hendry Antonay – the Arrows setup has always produced the superstars of the next generation. In this process, they have now made a reputation for supplying Indian Super League teams with prodigious talents.
This season again, it looks like a number of Indian Arrows graduates have the potential to move to the ISL. Here are five prodigious Indian Arrows starlets who could make their mark in the ISL in the upcoming season;
5. Harsh Patre
Hailing from Bicholim in Goa, the young midfielder made his presence felt for the Indian Arrows in the I-League. He scored a wonderful brace against NEROCA FC, which helped them earn a crucial 2-1 win. Apart from the goals, he was one of the players who provided that creative outlet for the Blue Colts.
One of his strong suits is his calmness, which has helped Patre to lead the Indian team in multiple age-group tournaments. The 17-year-old midfielder started his career at the Goa Football Development Council (GFDA) and earned his strides with Churchill Brothers’ U-15 team. He was later spotted by AIFF as well and has already represented India at the U-15 SAFF Championship. Patre’s maturity on the ball is visibly beyond his years and his performance this season is a testament to his abilities.
4. Gurkirat Singh
The youngster has spent another season with the Indian Arrows. Gurkirat is mainly known for his versatility, as he can play anywhere in the backline and also slot in as a centre-forward. He played a crucial role at left-back in the U-16 Indian side which reached the quarterfinals of the 2018 AFC U-16 Championships. Considering his attributes, he can even slot in as a left winger.
One of the memorable instances of Gurkirat from the previous season of the I-League has to be when he assisted Vikram Partap Singh to earn a 1-1 draw against NEROCA FC. He has worked tirelessly, made some great runs and showed spirit in a completely new role. Although the goals may not have come, Gurkirat is yet another player to watch out for.
3. Lalchhanhima Sailo
Another midfielder who has been in and around the Arrows setup for the last couple of years. The deep-lying playmaker is known for his resolve under pressure and passing skills. He is someone who brings a lot of energy to the midfield and can initiate attacking build-ups.
The Indian Arrows starlet has all the abilities to move to the ISL, which reflected in his performances this season. The 17-year old can be a real asset for any ISL side, especially in the long haul. He has admitted that playing in the I-League against opponents who are physically stronger than him has helped him improve his game.
2. Sajad Hussain Parray
From the outskirts of Srinagar, young left-back Sajad Hussain Parray has made his name in his maiden I-League season. The full-back is predominantly left-footed, which allows him to naturally slot in as a left-back. But, he has also featured as a left-sided centre-back, lending more balance to the team. Sajad began his career with Sports Council Football Academy in Srinagar under Sajid Dar, who is the technical director there.
Sajad has excelled in the physical aspect of the game, winning many duels against his foreign counterparts in the I-League. His physicality and aerial prowess also allowed him to score a crucial injury-time header against Aizawl FC, clinching their first point of the season. Sajad definitely has the fighting spirit and perseverance to do well at the top level.
1. Ricky Shabong
As fate would have it, Ricky Shabong could have featured in the ISL last season with SC East Bengal. Nevertheless, the young midfielder had to stick around with the Indian Arrows for another I-League. The defensive midfielder had another decent season, as he showed some improvements in his passing and awareness. Shabong partnered with Sailo, allowing the latter to play freely, as he took all the load of breaking the lines and cutting off passing lanes.
Coming from a humble background, Shabong once broke stones at a local mine near Shillong and the grueling task has developed his body to do high intensive work. He is a player who should get his chance at the ISL next season. It will be interesting to see if Robbie Fowler turns his attention to the youngster once again.