Indian Football has been making a stir in the sports community for a while now. Here are top 10 youngsters in ISL to look out for in this season:
- Anirudh Thapa – Undoubtedly, the youngster we’ve all been waiting for. The face of a new generation of Indian football we’ve all been craving for years. If this is a prototype of what’s coming our way in the following seasons, then we are in for a golden era of Indian football. Chennaiyin FC unleashed the beast in bits and pieces in the season 4. Thapa was later rewarded by Stephen Constantine with a place in the national squad. This 20-year old is not the topping on the cake. He is the topping and the cake.
Ladies and gents, the name is Anirudh Thapa.
- Bidyananda Singh –Bengaluru FC’s promising set of youngsters are a testimony to their incredible training facilities. Academy coach Naushad Moosa, BFC ‘B’ coach, has been at the helm in the scheme of things. Prashanth Kalinga, Asheer Akthar, Ajay Chetri are few of the other names to have made their promotion from the junior team to senior team. Bengaluru FC churning out youngsters like these is a victory in itself. Indian football should follow the BFC model for the way it has come through since its inception. And Bidyananda Singh is another gleaming example of this.
- Vignesh Dakshinamurthy – ‘It’s a Bengaluru thing, you won’t understand.’ One of the BFC fanboys said while describing this teenager. Vignesh lit up the I-League 2nd division playing for their rivals Ozone FC. He marshaled the midfield and represented India in various age groups for the last 3 years. In the recently concluded SAFF Championships, Vignesh was picked by Constantine for the U-23 squad. He has a rich footballing lineage and Mumbai City has might have just picked him with an eye for the future. Is the surprise package Mumbai City FC have been looking for to change their fortunes?
- Komal Thatal – This youngster might just be in the right place at the right time. Finally. He dazzled the U-17 world cup with his skills. However, he could only play the one match because of a dispute with the head coach. When the AIFF decided to field a development team comprising of U-17 and U-19 players in the I-League, he was again left to wait in the fringes because of the same coach. It was reported that Thatal had rejected offers from European Clubs and I-League clubs for ISL. Now with Steve Coppell in charge of ATK, this might just be the start for him.
- Shubham Sarangi – Sarangi narrowly missed out on the bus to the U-17 FIFA world cup. But Delhi Dynamos made sure of the net to let go off an incredible prospect. So much so that Dymaos management sent him to train in Aspire Academy in Qatar as part of a collaboration. ISL has been more of the cream of India and foreign players vying for a sport in the XI. Given the right chance, this teen midfielder will be looking to get under the skin of opposition if given the chance.
- Michael Soosairaj – Although Chennai City finished a lowly 8th and just avoided relegation, two players caught everyone’s one for their attacking prowess. Soosairaj, a Tamil Nadu native ended the season with a high number of successful key passes. He found a place in Cesar Ferrando’s plans and was signed by Jamshedpur FC. If he can emulate last season’s form, Jamshedpur has every reason to look for a potential leader in him. With the celebrated Tim Cahill in front of him, the job is already half easier for him. Ferrando and his new teammates will be hoping for him to pull the strings in the midfield.
- Sinivasan Pandiyan – Pandiyan, along with Soosairaj was everyone’s muse in the I-League. They were a treat to watch in the Chennai City FC midfield. When the ISL 2017-18 ended, one of the first things that Chennaiyin FC did was to sign the Tamil Nadu native Sinivasan Pandiyan. Chennaiyin FC has a strong connection with the fans because of having some of the best talents from Tamil Nadu. Dhanpal Ganesh, Nandakumar and now Pandiyan. But Chennaiyin FC is one with intent. If anything, this is for a connect. If he does find a place in starting XI regularly, he will be a vital cog in Gregory’s plans.
- Kivi Zhimomi – After playing for more than a few teams in the I-league and the second division, he finally signed for an ISL team. By virtue of it, he also became the first player from Nagaland to play for an ISL club. His goal against East Bengal last year playing for Gokulam Kerala won him laurels. Avram Grant signed him this season for North East United FC in a bid to revive their fortunes. Zhimomi has the right platform now to revive the scene in NEUFC and Nagaland by his performances.
- Jithin MS – He was one of the stars of the Kerala state team in the Santosh trophy. Kerala, a football crazy state hadn’t won the coveted trophy for over 13 years then. Taking on the mighty West Bengal in the finals, he led his team to glory. He finished as the joint top scorer in the tournament. Kerala blasters were quick to pounce on the opportunity to sign the Thrissur-born youngster. Blasters endured a tough ISL which included 7 draws. Kerala Blasters were looking for the fire up front and signed Jithin was one of the first to be signed. If Jithin gets going, he will be in for a treat by the incredible Manjappada.
- Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem – Another one to emerge out of India’s U-17 FIFA world cup campaign. He made big news when he was selected for trials at Motherwell FC, a Scottish team. If reports are to be believed, he wasn’t able to sign for the team even after impressing the coaches because of work permit issues. As they say, one person’s loss is another’s gain. David James was quick to secure his services for the upcoming season. David James, however, has the tough task of selecting one of Naveen Kumar and Dheeraj as his mainstay in the Kerala Blasters goal. Dheeraj, however, will be looking for every chance to come good in this footballing season.