I-League has been very interesting this season, with a pool of about four-five teams vying for the title. The teams’ success is majorly asserted by the team effort and how well they gel and play as a unit, but a very important aspect is the rise of certain players, which is pivotal in their team’s good run. Every season brings with it, loads of opportunities for youngsters and newcomers to make a mark, create a name for themselves and this season of I-League has been no different. TheHardTackle takes a look at five new foreign players who have had an immediate impact on I-League this season and who would look to make it big in Indian Football.
Minchol Son (Shillong Lajong)
The tall and lanky, Japanese born North Korean centre-back has been phenomenal for the North-Eastern outfit, Shillong Lajong. He already has five Man of the match awards to his credit in just eight appearances for the club. Shillong Lajong’s better than expected run after nine rounds of the I-League, placed ninth in the table, just one point behind the Kolkata giant Mohun Bagan, mainly attributes to good defensive display at the back, led by none other than Minchol Son. He was signed by the Lajong coach Desmond Bulpin along with Lajong Chairman, P.D. Sawyan from the Japanese Football League club F.C. Korea.
Coming from a Japanese background, where there is a superior level of play and coaching, the defender seems to be a real good prospect and with him stating, his best is yet to come, are danger signs for the Strikers all around. He has just come to India and even not having come to term with life here, the North Korean has shown immense grit and will-power. He is highly rated by his coach, who terms him really disciplined and hardworking. The defender has led his lines well and is a calming figure in the heart of Lajong defense. His experience will also come in handy for a relatively young Lajong side. Son has passed the Indian test with flying colours and an even better future awaits him.
Evans Quao (Mumbai FC)
The young 22-year-old Ghanaian has shown tremendous versatility and character in his return spell in the I-League, the previous being in the 2010-11 season, where he was with the same club. The Ghanaian has slotted in as a centre back, held the midfield and even found himself in a more attacking role and has delivered in one and all. He has already scored two goals, both being in winning causes, against ONGC FC and Prayag United FC.
The Mumbai coach, Khalid Jamil has been really impressed by the youngster and has given him a regular starting birth, owing to his splendid performances, one after another. He has combined well with the other Ghanaian in the side, Yusif Yakubu. The tall and well-built defender also brings in the physical aspect of the game along with him, making him a perfect fit in the Mumbai side. Mumbai, who were down and out in the early part of the season have now seen a revamp, with ten points from four games and Quao has been instrumental in the snatching up points against quality opposition.
Bilal Najjarin (Churchill Brothers)
The Lebanese defender has been a revelation for the Goan outfit this season. He has been a rock at the back for Churchill and must be given credit for his gritty display. Just nine games into the top-tier of Indian football and boy he has impressed one and all. Though, Lebanese football is of much higher standard than the Indian football, but to adjust to a completely new system of football and performing from day-1 needs skill and character. He was signed from the Lebanese club, Nejmeh SC in the summer and has done well for Churchill till now, cementing his place in the eleven in addition to leading the back-line. In his short career, the 31-year-old even has a goal to his name and has notched up a couple of assists to show for his efforts.
Eric Brown (ONGC FC)
The young Liberian after spending a season at Mumbai FC, where he didn’t play much, headed for the oilmen, where he made his debut on 26th October, 2012, playing as the lone man upfront against the big spenders Prayag United and showed glimpses of brilliance in that match against the Bengal outfit. He netted in an exquisite left-footed free-kick, beating one of the finest keepers going around in Asia, Subrata Pal. The Liberian has since, dropped a little deeper into the midfield in order to control more of the game and has been superb.
He seems to be a great talent, with great ball control and dribbling abilities. He also has a strong left foot. He has already netted three goals in six appearances for the oilmen and has had his hand in creating goals as well. The Liberian seems to be a bright prospect and is an asset for his team. He has easily been ONGC’s best player so far, ahead of the likes of talented Jatin Bisht and Katsumi Yusa. Brown has been pivotal in ONGC being termed as the giant killers, as he had a big role in the draw against Prayag and beating of the defending champions Dempo at Delhi. He is surely going to leave his mark in Indian football this season.
Akram Moghrabi (Churchill Brothers)
The tall, lanky Lebanese forward has all the attributes of a top quality striker. He is also from the same club as his fellow countrymen, Bilal Najjarin and Nejmeh SC, and both are an integral part of the Lebanon National team. The forward, after initially falling out of favour with the coach Mariano Dias, is now a regular in the team, leading the Churchill attack, with Beto playing just behind him. He, with his impressive display has made for Henri Antchouet fall down the pecking order
The Lebanese forward is already tied 5th in the list of top scorers in the I-League so far, with the veterans of the league in Ranti, Sueoka and Odafa, occupying the higher positions. This achievement in itself speaks volumes of the early success Akram has been exposed to. The 27-year-old also has a hattrick in his kitty and two of the best goals in the league so far. Akram has been the focal point for the Goans in attack and he has not disappointed. With his career in the top-tier of Indian football just three months old, this guy has the all the ingredients of making it big, here in India.
The five names mentioned above have risen to the occasion and it augurs well for the quality and future of I-League. These are surely going to be big names in the top-tier of Indian football sooner rather than later and are the ones to watch out for. So, sit back and enjoy these talented foreigners making their way up the ranks.
Written by Guest Author Anubhav Roda