It is no secret that foreign players play an important and a decisive role in the outcome on the I-League and this season has been no different with the quality of foreign players at its very best. With the I-League coming to the end, we take a look at the five most consistent foreign 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. Ranti Martins Soleye (Prayag United SC)

Age: 26   Nationality: Nigeria       Position: Striker
 
Games        Goals       Assists     YC      RC
24                 25                1                5          0

Ranti Martins on his way to I-League top scorer spot for the 3rd time

Ranti Martins on his way to I-League top scorer spot for the 3rd time

On 12 May 2012 it was officially confirmed that Ranti Martins had signed with Prayag United after finishing his commitment with Dempo. Ranti has been regular starter and goal-scorer for his club. He made quick impact in his I-league debut for Prayag United on 7 October 2012 against Air India FC in which Ranti Martins also scored a debut hat-trick for his club as Prayag United won the match 5–1. Ranti Martins scored his second hat-trick on 10 November 2012 against Bhaichung Bhutia’s owned club United Sikkim FC where his club won 10-1 and he found the back of net 5 times. He is currently the top-scorer in current I-league session with 25 goals  from 24 games and is likely to win golden-boot again. His exploits have helped the club lift IFA Shield – their only major trophy this season

2. Odafe Onyeka Okolie (Mohun Bagan A.C.)

 Age: 27    Nationality: Nigeria       Position: Striker

Games        Goals       Assists       YC      RC
20                  19                   2                1          1

Odafe is a proven potent goal-scorer for his club, but unfortunately he couldn’t help his club to chase I-league trophy. However he  has played an integral part in club’s revival and a lot of credit for Bagan’s recent form goes to him. Like Ranti Martins he also scored 2 hat-trick in I-league but against same opponent. ie. Sporting Goa on 4 November 2012 and 7 April 2013 respectively. He is currently 2nd top scorer in I-league averaging a goal in every match, it is also to be seen that he can’t match Ranti Martins’ feat as he played 4 matches less than what Ranti had appeared but for this Odafe Okolie himself has to be blamed as he picked a red card in Kolkata derby earlier. In 2nd half of the session, Odafe Okolie started pairing well with Tolgay, and as a result, Mohun Bagan started giving nightmares to opponent by giving consistent performance. Though Mohun Bagan is still not in top 10 and might not be this session, but individually Odafa Okolie performance this session is commendable.

 3.    Edeh Chidi (East Bengal F.C.)

 Age: 25    Nationality: Nigeria       Position: Striker

Games        Goals       Assists     YC        RC
23                 17                   1              2            0

East Bengals Edeh Chidi had a brilliant campaign

East Bengals Edeh Chidi had a brilliant campaign

Like his country mates, he too scored a hat-trick and this makes Nigerian hat-trick for scoring hat-trick and the wrong side this time were Salgaocar where his best came out and East Bengal won that match 4-1. Apart from this match, Edeh Chidi used to find his name  regularly on score-sheet. It was his effort that kept East Bengal in title race for most of the time and they sit currently at 3rd position behind Churchill Brothers and Pune FC with 3 matches to go. East Bengal were lucky to have the strong set of  players like Lalrindika Ralte, Penn Ikechukwu Orji, Mehtab Hussain and Sanju Pradhan in midfield, and Edeh Chidi had the privilege of getting the service from these players. They need miracle to win the title, but even if they don’t, East Bengal would be quite happy with this Nigerian striker and will be hoping to keep I-league frustration behind and march forward in AFC Cup.

4. Roberto Mendes Da Silva (Churchill Brothers SC)

Age: 33    Nationality: Brazil       Position: Midfielder
 
Games        Goals       Assists     YC        RC
19                13                    6              4            1

Churchill Brothers main stay Roberto Mendes Da Silva

Churchill Brothers main stay Roberto Mendes Da Silva

A sure-shot automatic inclusion in starting 11, if not injured. Now age has taken toll on his body but whenever selected Roberto Mendes Da Silva made sure he had given  his 100% on the field by regularly scoring and  assist  the goals. This season he might not be the top scorer, but he has made his presence felt by providing maximum no. of  assist this season. He always made sure that he keeps himself busy in front of net by either keeping his name on score-sheet.  At present his linking with Indian captain Sunil Chhetri who has been brought from Sporting CP on temporary loan for the remainder of the ongoing 2012-13 season is very creative and delightful during play.

5.    Uga Okpara (East Bengal F.C.)

Age: 28    Nationality: Nigeria       Position: Defender
 
Games        Goals    Assist     YC            RC
23                  0               0             4                0

This season East Bengal are the only team to have conceded less than 20 goals and when Pune FC had same no. of points as East Bengal, East Bengal comes out at the top because of Goal difference, thanks to Uga Okpara who single handed took the responsibility of  defense and acted as a leader of team in defense and made sure that opponent find them a  tough nut to crack. Out of 23 matches played East Bengal conceded only 15 goals, thus maintaining  clean sheet in lot of matches. Though for his aggression Uga Okpara picked 4 Yellow card, but avoided any Red card. His club will be hoping for the same from him for the remaining matches. This season he has been instrumental in defense and left no stone unturned in defense and succeeded which led some opponent coaches to raise their eye-brow and rethink about their strategy.

Article written by Guest Author Preetam Anand