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ISL 2020-21 | Local first-timers who can set the league on fire

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Nongdamba Naorem was part of India's squad in the 2017 FIFA U17 World Cup

ISL 2020-21 | Local first-timers who can set the league on fire

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sounak mullick


The Indian Super League has gifted us many Indian talents in the past, starting from the first season itself and we are expecting something similar this time too. With new faces set to make their debut in the league this season, we are on the hunt for the next big thing in Indian football.

We have seen many Indian youngsters impress in the Indian Super League and later go on to represent in the national side - with Sandesh Jhingan being a prime example, followed by Anirudh Thapa, Ashique Kuruniyan and Sahal Abdul Samad. Likewise, we are set to witness a pool of Indian talents this season, determined to make a mark in the top-flight tournament and make claim to their entry to the national set-up. You might have heard about some of them, while unaware of the others, but they have the potential to hog the limelight in the ongoing season.

Here are the first-timers to watch out for:

Lalramchullova (SC East Bengal)

Already a known name in the Indian football circuit, having steered Aizawl FC to a historic I-League title back in 2016, but Lalramchullova is yet to make an appearance in the Indian Super League. Having plied his trade for two years at East Bengal in the first stint, he was shipped to cross-road rivals Mohun Bagan for a hefty sum. But, with lack of playing time offered in Mohun Bagan’s I-League winning campaign and his former club roping him ahead of the new season, the side-back would be more than happy to don the ‘red and gold’ once again. SC East Bengal’s inclusion in the Indian Super League has given the Mizo an automatic possibility of making a mark in the top-flight tournament. With his speedy runs down the wing, Lalramchullova is an asset for any team which he plays for, but given the fact he’s been part of the Kolkata-based side in the past, gives him an edge over others.

Nongdamba Naorem (Kerala Blasters FC)

The boy who scored a ‘wonder’ goal getting past four defenders and became a household name soon after? Nongdamba Naorem, the U17 World Cup player was all set to make his debut in the previous edition of the ISL for Kerala Blasters FC but was loaned to Mohun Bagan just before the last season kicked-off. What might not have apparently looked like a loss for Kerala Blasters FC turned out to be a huge gain for the ‘green and maroon’ brigade, with the winger having an exceptional season at the century-old club, steering them to a second I-League title. With a fair estimate about his capabilities, Kerala Blasters FC will give a hero’s welcome to the youngster for sure, which was partly visible when he was fielded given a start in the opening tie. With Kibu Vicuna also making a shift from Mohun Bagan to the Kerala-based side, Naorem would be better placed to deliver in the setup.

Sheikh Sahil (ATK Mohun Bagan)

Like Nongdamba Naorem, this footballer is also an I-League winner with Mohun Bagan last season, having been in charge of the midfield alongside Spaniard Joseba Beitia. Calm and composed, Sheikh Sahil has the ability to hold the ball and keep it flowing to the final third. He might not be a crafty player, but an effective one, while his presence and ever-lasting hunger for perfection acting as a catalyst in the whole process. Retained by his former side, it would be tough to cement his place as a regular after the amalgamation with ATK, but with the good he possesses, Antonio Lopez Habas would undoubtedly reserve some playing time for the budding star.

Alexander Romario Jesuraj (FC Goa)

Technically is not a first-timer, having appeared in just one match for FC Goa, spending a total of 34 minutes inside the pitch. In fact, Alexander Romario Jesuraj was offered limited time to showcase his talents during his stay at Mohun Bagan on loan last season. That does not take away the fact that the winger is a tried and tested one, with him playing a pivotal role in Chennai City FC’s I-League win a couple of years ago. Romario has stunned many a time with his pacey runs down the wings, ripping up the opponents’ defence apart, eventually opening the goalmouth for his side. With the likes of Jakichand Singh making an exit from the FC Goa setup, head coach Juan Ferrando is bound to play him as a winger at some point in time, even though he did not make it to the playing XI in the first match against Bengaluru FC

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