With the I-league and ISL heading into longer and parallel seasons players and clubs must choose each other. . .
While Chennaiyin Football Club sell out the 25,000-seater Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium or Marina Arena, their I-League counterpart in Chennai City Football Club hardly manage to sell a couple thousand tickets.
Although the I-League clubs’ playing second fiddle to the Indian Super League sides is the norm, City have managed to tap into Chennai’s passion for the game by signing the city’s darlings. Their putting the local lads on the pedestal has seen the townsfolk buy tickets to cheer for the players they grew with.
Chennaiyin have hitherto only had two local lads – and Indian internationals – Dhanpal Ganesh and Nallappan Mohanraj on their roster previously though they were only scarcely used by the now-departed custodian Marco Materazzi. However, they ought to be foolish to not copy City’s business strategy as the local players do not only instil emotions in the fans but also score a good goal or two.
With Chennaiyin loaning Karanjit Singh, Zakeer Mundampara and Dhanpal Ganesh, it is safe to assume that the managements are in good terms – despite Rohit Ramesh’s occasional thinly-veiled swipes at Chennaiyin on Twitter. Accordingly, loaning City’s talismans shall not be a concern for the Marina Machans.
Chinadorai Sabeeth is a relative unknown in Tamil Nadu; however, he remains one of the biggest names the state has produced in the recent times. Donning the India shirt twice as a 21-year-old, he looked a star in the making. He even averaged 18 appearances and five goals per season in the I-League playing for Pailan Arrows and Mohun Bagan over three seasons between 2011 and 2014.
However, though he signed a contract with Kerala Blasters in the inaugural ISL season, his stocks began plummeting in 2014. He scored a solitary goal in the ISL that season before managing a measly three appearances for Mohun Bagan in the following I-League campaign. All his eight appearances for FC Goa brought him zero goals after he had remained a fringe player, making no appearance for East Bengal in the 2015-16 season.
The newly-wed Ooty-born player is currently a free agent and, perhaps, playing for his home state club will goad him to revive his career.
Edwin Sydney Vanspaul
Clocking 958 minutes in his I-League debut season, Edwin Sydney Vanspaul announced himself to Indian football, even earning a long-term contract City contract. Although he failed to make the scoresheet in 12 league appearances, he found his goal-scoring boots in the Federation Cup. Scoring against I-League champions Aizawl and Churchill Brothers, he made up for his goal-brazen league campaign.
Edwin Vanspaul has been one of the creative lynchpins for Chennai City FC this season and has helped with his creativity and bravery on the pitch
The 24-year-old had played top-level football even prior to his I-League debut having played in Santosh Trophy and CFA Senior Division League. A solid midfielder on most nights, he will prove a cheap quality addition for Chennaiyin.
Much like Sydney Vanspaul, Michael Soosairaj had featured in Santosh Trophy and CFA Senior Division League before earning the opportunity to hang with the Sunil Chhetris and Jeje Lalpekhluas of Indian football earlier this year. He used his opportunity splendidly, notching up two goals in six starts.
Impressed, the City head honchos offered him an extended contract, which is believed to run north of three years. Additionally, his fans duly tipped their hats, voting him the best player of the campaign on the club’s Facebook profile, ahead of Charles de Souza and Karanjit Singh.
A natural winger, his free-kicks are certain to ensure he remains a regular fixture in Indian club football for years. Aged 22, he will only improve, so Chennaiyin will likely get the itch to sign him on loan for the fourth edition of the ISL.
Former City manager Robin Charles Raja faced the axe for overlooking talents like Nandhakumar and rightfully so. Upon the arrival of Soundararajan, he began showcasing his proficiency, often proving the only midfielder with killer instincts on the otherwise overly-defensive team.
Despite late breakthrough and an unfortunate injury restricting him to only five games, the 21-year-old bagged two goals and was impressive enough to encourage City’s owner to make his render his Twitter profile picture for over a week.
In light of his brilliant displays, City cunningly signed him to a long-term deal but, given the Chennai clubs’ alleged good business relationship, Chennaiyin can sign him on loan to make themselves more endearing to the Tamil Nadu fans.
The Chennaiyin supporters are easily one of the most passionate groups on the Indian soil, as evidenced by the atmosphere they create at Marina Arena. Jayesh Rane, Davide Succi, Marco Materazzi, Raphael Augusto, Bernard Mendy and John Arne Riise all had their own chants last season.
Ravanan has been one of the better performers from the Southern region of India in recent times
One wonders how the B-Stand Blues and the rest of the Marina Arena audience will treat a player they can call one of their own.
None suits that label more than Tiruchy-born City captain Dharmaraj Ravanan. Despite never playing for the national team, he now comes across as a seasoned veteran having played for Mohun Bagan and skippered Churchill Brothers to an I-League title win. Even at 29, he will prove a fantastic addition and, given the player’s love for his home state, he likely will not mind ditching the Pune City shirt in favour of the Blues’ strip.