India has been called the ‘sleeping giants’ of world football but since the inception of Hero Indian Super League (ISL), the level of Indian football has undoubtedly increased. In the soaring heat with barely any preparation days between games, this league is definitely one of the most gruelling ones out there, where consistency is the key behind the success of any club.
Alongside consistency, what has also worked for the clubs over the years is their investment in young players and maintaining a healthy balance of youth and experience in the squad. In the six seasons of Indian Super League’s existence, we have witnessed the rise of several youngsters who have gone on to represent India internationally and few who have the potential to become national stars. Here we look at five prospects of Indian football who are slated to have a bright future.
Club: Jamshedpur FC
From leading India in the U-17 FIFA World Cup 2017 to establishing himself as a pivotal role in the Jamshedpur FC midfield to making his senior team debut, Amarjit Singh has had a couple of memorable years in Indian football. His brother’s career was cut short following injuries and health problems but Amarjit was determined to carry forward his brother’s unfulfilled dreams. He made his senior team debut in the King’s Cup and stacked up the most number of minutes by a midfield player under Igor Stimac before an injury saw him getting ruled out of the World Cup qualifiers. He is the first player to be born in the 21st century to represent India and a lot of hopes are pinned on him to become the next star Indian football needs.
Club: FC Goa
The keeper, who narrowly missed out on making it to the Under-17 India team for the 2017 World Cup because the coach felt that he wasn’t tall enough, has made some gigantic strides in the past two Indian Super League seasons. At just 20, Mohammad Nawaz has registered 33 appearances in the league for FC Goa and has been an integral part of Sergio Lobera’s successful team which went on to win the League Winners Shield in the 2019-20 season. He had a shocking start to his FC Goa career making a careless mistake and costing his team a goal but the custodian has never looked back since. His ability to make acrobatic saves along with his ball-playing ability makes him the perfect fit for FC Goa’s footballing philosophy.
Club: Odisha FC
The 19-year-old Odisha-born player was a key part of Josep Gombau’s team which won everyone’s hearts in Odisha FC’s first Indian Super League campaign in 2019-20. Shubham is a versatile player who started off as a striker but was converted into a right full-back by Gombau. He has recently signed a contract extension with Odisha which will keep him at the Bhubaneshwar-based club till 2023. With some stellar performances in the last season, Shubham has also caught the eye of the national team coach, Igor Stimac and a national call-up is not too far away.
Club: ATK FC
Sumit Rathi broke into the title-winning ATK FC team in December and has been colossal since then. Despite his tender age, the Muzaffarnagar-born centre-back has shown maturity beyond his age. He won the Emerging Player of the Season award in the 2019-20 edition of the Indian Super League and played a major role in helping ATK FC win their third title. He stood out in the final against Chennaiyin FC registering 20 clearances in that particular match. He has earned plaudits from experts, fans and players alike and the future look bright for the centre-back.
Club: Bengaluru FC
Another player who represented India in the Under-17 World Cup excelled in this year’s Indian Super League season. Suresh Wanjam was lauded by his boss, Carles Cuadrat and the Spaniard reckons that a senior team call-up is soon coming his way. With Udanta Singh having an uncharacteristically off-colour season in 2019-20, Cuadrat turned to the energetic Wangjam, who grasped the opportunity with both hands. He was a little sceptical with his move to Bengaluru from the Indian Arrows but soon got acclimatised to the environment and showed his class in the latter half of the season.
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