The I-League has come to an end, and East Bengal has qualified for quarter-finals in AFC cup. We take a look at the five most consistent Indian players of this season and how they have played a key role in their respective team’s camping this season.
The list is in no particular order
1. Sunil Chhetri (Churchill Brothers SC)
Age: 28 Squad Number: 11 Position: Striker
After just managing handful of playing opportunities in Sporting CP, Chhetri joined Churchill Brothers SC on temporary loan for the remainder of the 2012–13 season in their mission of winning the I-League. On 21 February 2013, he had a dream debut for Churchill Brothers when he scored twice , helping them beat Dempo 2–0 in the Goa Pro League. He scored his first goal in 2013 AFC cup against Semen Padang F.C. which ended in a 2-2 draw on 5 April 2013 at Pune. His best performance in I-league came on 17th April at Tilak Maidan Stadium against his former club Dempo when he struck twice to secure a 2-2 draw and at both occasion Dempo was leading by a goal. Thus keeping Churchill hopes alive for title,which was accomplished eventually. Churchill’s title win was in doubt after Lebanaese duo left but Chhetri’s arrival made sure that their absence was not felt.His cameo appearance in increased the charm of I-League.
2. Sandip Nandy (Churchill Brothers SC)
Age: 38 Squad Number: 42 Position: Goalkeeper
This 38 year old veteran who had left East Bengal last season to look for the new challenge could not have asked for anything better as he featured in all 26 matches of the league for Churchill Brothers and won the league in his very first year for the Goans. Such was his consistency that he even called for called for India for a International Friendly match against Palestine on 6 February 2013 and got the nod ahead of favourate Subrata Pal. His form at the start of the season was not good but as the season progressed he improved in style by pulling off some important saves for his team.He allowed only 22 goals in 26 matches. Though he was good in I-league but his performance was average in AFC cup as it was his mistake only which allowed Semen Padang F.C. to snatch a point after Churchill dominated most part of the match.But overall he certainly proved to be the best goal-keeper this session.
3. C.K. Vineeth (Prayag United S.C.)
Age: 25 Squad Number: 30 Position: Midfielder
He was the top Indian Scorer in I-League 2012-13 session, and one of the most consistent midfielder in I-League. He was rewarded for his hard work by a callup for the national team and made debut for India in an International Friendly match against Palestine on 6 February 2013. On 29 January 2013,India’s squad was announced and Vineeth was part of that squad which energised and motivated him to give his best when he scored his first hat-trick against Air India on 2nd Feburary at Pune, where his side won the away match 4–1.
4. Lalrindika Ralte (East Bengal F.C.)
Age: 20 Squad Number: 21 Position: Midfielder
A young player who is energetic, passionate, fast and who can easily be threatening enough for his opposition on any given day. This session ,he scored in every competition where he played. Out of three, he was at his best in AFC cup ,when East Bengal dominated in match against Selengor but struggled to score and when its look like that they were about to spoil the day, Ralte stepped up to score and thats mark the successful start in AFC campaign. Ralte got well supported by Orgi and Mehtab who too were instrumental in East Bengal campaign. At very young age he is doing wonders for his club, it will be appropriate if he can be labelled as “Wonder Kid”. Ralte is a sure-shot automatic inclusion in starting 11 for any club and is knocking on the doors of the national team.
5. Arata Izumi (Pune F.C.)
Age: 30 Squad Number: 8 Position: Midfielder
This talismatic midfielder has been an assest for Pune FC having been with them since 2009.He has been regular starter in playing 11 ever since. He has the reputation for his speed which Indian national team was lacking, so seeing the opportunity to break into the national team, he surrendered his Japanese passport and then on 6th February,2013 he became the first PIO (person of Indian origin) player to play for India team. He can play as attacking midfielder or striker, this session in I-League he scored 5 goals in 22 appearance and helped his club Pune FC finish at 2nd position, their best ever positon in league.He also scored 1 goal in Federation cup but his team crash out of competition.As an individual he is someone for which every club is looking for in their midfield.
Jeje Lalpekhlua(Pune F.C.)
Age: 22 Squad Number: 10 Position: Striker
Many will be argue after seeing the statistics that how pathetic his performance is. But the matter of fact is that in presence of James Moga,he never got fair share of chance and in most of the matches he didn’t even start. Jeje was primarily used as an substitute. According to Soccerway, he was on the pitch for only 839 minutes, and from that prospective it was rather a very commendable job done by this youngster. He was part of 6 goals ,setting 1 up and scoring 5.It might be nice if he looks for a club where he gets maximum chances in the starting 11.
Steven Dias (Churchill Brothers SC)
Age: 29 Squad Number: 23 Position: Midfielder
Even at this age, he has been playing well and definitely looking to regain his spot in Indian national team. This session he has made his presence felt by providing maximum no. of assist in I-League. His best performance came on 23rd March, 2013 when he scored a goal against ONGC F.C. to give his side a lead, which finally ended in 1-1 draw. He was part of Churchill Brothers SC in their unsuccessful AFC cup campaign but helped his club immensely to the title win in I-League.
Mehtab Hossain (East Bengal F.C.)
Age: 27 Squad Number: 14 Position: Midfielder
A highly-rated midfielder who goes forward for setting-up the goals and when requires fall back to help in defence. His contribution in East Bengal’s impressive run is invaluable. East Bengal has fineshed 3rd this session in I-League and one of the only team to concede less than 20 goals.He made sure that Uga Okpara and the rest of defence didn’t feel the pressure of constant attack from opposition. He is so consistant that he always remains the choice of coaches and that is why he is regularly finding himself in Club as well as national team playing 11. There is also rumour that he is all set to go for trials in Spain this summer for some 2nd division club. Its remains to be seen if he shows his class and skills and bags any contract with foreign club.
Article written by Guest Author Preetam Anand