We may be looking at the future of Indian football
The Hero Indian Super League has returned with a lot of excitement and thrilling encounters in store for us. Over the years we have witnessed the emergence of some young talent taking the center stage, often giving the senior players a run for their money.
This season has been no different. We are only in the initial stage of the tournament and these young lads have already started to show what they are capable of. From crucial tackles to stellar goals to match-winning performances, we have seen it all.
Players like Nishu Kumar, Gaurav Mukhi, and Pranjal Bhumij netted their debut league goal this season. But now we’ll be looking at the youngsters who are geared up to take Indian football to greater heights.
#5 Udanta Singh
Focus on the Ball
Kumam Udanta Singh plays as a young right winger for Bengaluru F.C. and is one of a kind. His staggering pace makes him a nightmare for the defenders. Playing alongside Miku and Sunil Chhetri has made his game more sensible and attractive. On his day he can be a threat to any defensive line up.
During the Intercontinental Cup, he scored his first international goal against Chinese Taipei. Only 22 years of age, this Highlander has all the attributes of a great attacking forward along with his share of talent.
He needs to work slightly on his passing in the final third, which could help him to provide more assists. Vedanta’s strength is his movement with the ball and the ease with which he dribbles past defenders.
He has the potential to make any defender uncomfortable with his speed and skills which is useful in counter-attacking football. With his talent, if he continues to grow at this scale he will surely be the next football sensation in India.
#4 Komal Thatal
Practice maketh Perfect
The 18-year-old Sikkimese winger has attracted the attention of some football fans and pundits during his stint in the U-17 FIFA World Cup. His flamboyance style of football grabbed a lot of eyeballs which led to his debut for Atletico De Kolkata in ISL last season.
That is an attacking midfielder possessing a lot of skills with his sublime touch and flair. He showed his caliber during the first match against the USA in the World Cup running past players with blistering pace and great control over the ball. However, he was not in the team for the remaining two matches against Colombia and Ghana.
After making his professional debut for ATK on 28th January 2018, he became the youngest player to feature in the ISL. His agility and ability to get the better of a defender in one on one situation makes him a promising young talent.
Unfortunately, lack of game time has led to his exclusion in the 23-man squad named for the AFC U-19 championship. Many doubted his decision when he chose Atletico De Kolkata over Indian Arrows where most of his fellow U-19 players went. He has immense potential to make a comeback in the international circuit and become the next big thing in Indian football.
#3 Anirudh Thapa
Thapa after lifting the title last year
Talking of the next big thing, this 20-year-old lad from Dehradun has impressed a lot in the last few years. Anirudh Thapa is a creative central midfielder who made his debut in ISL 2016 under Marco Materazzi’s Chennaiyin F.C.
After the conclusion of the 2016 ISL season, he went on loan to Minerva Punjab in the I-League for the following season. He became more mature as a player there and returned to the Marina Arena in 2017. Chennaiyin FC won the title for the second time in that season. He even scored in the semi-final leg against FC Goa.
Indian international number-7 was also an integral part of the Intercontinental Cup-winning Indian team. He played in three out of the four matches and also started in the final.
The 2017/18 season ended on a high for him as he received the Emerging Player of the Year award from the AIFF. Due to his recent form, he might cement his place in the national side, which will be taking part in the AFC Asian Cup in January next year. He needs to perform better in the upcoming season and not only look to create more chances but also score goals.
#2 Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem
Dheeraj in action against Mumbai City FC
Born in Manipur, Dheeraj turned out to be the most promising Indian Player in the U-17 FIFA world cup played in India last year. His standout performances in the tournament led to transfer link-ups with the clubs outside India.
He is an exciting young talent who made his ISL debut this year with the Kerala Blasters. His shot stopping skills and flying saves earned him a clean sheet on his ISL debut.
Dheeraj who is only 18 years old, was offered a three year deal with the Scottish League side, Motherwell. Due to some work permit issue there, he later went on to practice with the English Premier League club Bournemouth before finally signing for Kerala Blasters.
Hopefully, he will be seen representing the Indian football senior team as a backup for Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, if he continues to grow like this. Currently, he is sitting on top of the ISL golden glove chart averaging 180 minutes per goal conceded.
#1 Jerry Lalrinzuala
Jerry aiming for the target
Chennaiyin FC’s Jerry Lalrinzuala is a traditional wingback who can show his attacking prowess along with his defensive instincts. Jerry can trouble any formidable defense with his pace, dribbling and accurate passing.
He made his ISL debut back in the year 2016 in the opening match of ISL against Atletico de Kolkata. Later in that season, he went on to become the youngest player to score a goal in the ISL history, scoring from a free kick against FC Goa. He won the emerging player of the year award at the end of an outstanding season.
After spending some time on loan to DSK Shivajians in the I-League, he was retained by John Gregory & co. Jerry proved his worth and won the Emerging Player of the Match award in the finals of the 2017-18 season, beating Bengaluru Fc by 3-2. He made his international debut when Indian hosted Nepal in a friendly on June 2017.
He spends his time on the field hugging the sidelines and can be seen bursting up and down on that left flank. This 20-year-old baby-faced defender is strong with his tackles and often makes game-changing interceptions near his penalty box.
Jerry just needs to be sharp with his cutbacks and crosses inside the box so that it adds to more to his playmaking ability. A quick, agile and a technically gifted defender, Jerry has a lot to offer and is one to watch out for in the future.