The 2013/14 season of I-League kicked off on 21st and the Indian Football fans were treated to some spectacular action in the first two rounds with several promising youngsters catching the eye. The AIFF rule to field an U-23 player has taken a hit with United S.C. substituting the U-23 player after just 5 minutes but some other clubs have taken the rule in the stride and the initial rounds have brought ahead several promising youngsters who could well go and become household names in the next 2-3 years.
Myron Fernandes ( Dempo)
20 year old Dempo striker Myron Fernandes striker in the tutelage of Arthur Papas, has already made waves this season notching up several goals and assists in the Goa League including a match-winning performance against Margao FC . His form has been so impressive that many reckon that he is likely to push India international Jeje to the bench soon. Myron was selected for the prestigious Manchester United Soccer Schools Program along with 13 other kids from Goa and the following year was awarded the Gary Linekar scholarship for which he traveled to Leicester City Football Club and trained with their youth team.Myron boasts of an impressive resume. At 17 he was included in the Dempo senior squad and is one of the youngest players to play in the GFA First Division League. Myron has also trained at Danish Club FC Midtjylland and having established himself in the Goa Pro League and U-20 I-League, Myron will be gunning to cement his place in the senior team this season.
Nikhil Kadam ( Pune FC)
The 2o year old Kolhapur born midfielder is one of the most talked about Pune FC youngsters. Not surprisingly he was handed a start by new coach Mike Snoei in the first game against Mohmmedan Sporting and the youngster responded by notching an assist after his initial shot had hit the post. Kadam played in four I-League matches last season and even scored a goal in Pune FC ‘s 6-0 win over Air-India. Kadam who was spotted for the first time in the Subroto Cup, can play both as a central and the left midfielder. Crossing ability and blistering pace are the two hallmarks of his game. Having led Pune FC to back to back U-20 I-League titles and having played in Pune League and other tournaments, Kadam is all set to cement his place in the senior team this season. He was also adjudged ‘Pune FC Best Disciplined Under-19 Player’ and ‘PDFA Best Player – Super Division Award’ in the 2011-12 season. Undoubtedly Kadam is one of the players to keep a watch on this season.
Alesh Sawant ( Churchill Brothers)
18 year old Alesh Sawant, a product of Brasil Futebol Academia, made his I-League debut in Churchill Brother‘s opening game against Salgaocar. Signed on a season long loan by Churchill Brothers, Alesh comes into the I-League on back of some impressive performances which saw him become one of the most talked about players of Goa Pro League. Alesh plays on the left wing and has already become a set-piece expert for his team. Other than that, Alesh has a venomous shot and can also trouble the opposition team with his blistering pace. The fact that he was proffered over many seasoned campaigners in his first match itself speaks a lot about his talent.
Milan Singh ( Shillong Lajong)
For the 21 year old central midfielder from Shillong Lajong this is the first season away from the developmental side Arrows and if initial matches are anything to go about , then Milan Singh could make this season a memorable one. Already touted at the next big thing in Indian football, Milan has earned praise from T&T World Cupper Cornell Glen for his performances. At a young age Milan managed to earn a call up to the national team camp and has also been part of various age group national teams. The 21 year old is a composed customer and can handle the pressure well. He was the driver of the Arrows midfield last year and also took the spot-kicks for them. It hence came as no surprise that a lot of clubs were chasing the Arrows skipper in the transfer window. His ability with the set-pieces in addition to the his vision and work-rate makes him a key player in the Lajong midfield. At Lajong, Milan will play a role of a holding or a defensive midfielder sitting behind the more attacking Taisuke Matsugae. His distribution of balls to the flanks and the strikers will hold key to Lajong’s fortunes.
Ram Malik ( Mohun Bagan)
22 year old Ram Malik from Mohun Bagan rounds of our list of promising youngsters . The left footed winger can play on either flanks though the left flank is his favorite position. A product of Mohun Bagan SAIL Football Academy, Malik has been inducted into the Mohun Bagan squad this season after he had an impressive seasons with Aryan in 2013/13 and Kalinghat in 2011/12 . It was his performance in Aryan’s 1-4 loss to Mohun Bagan, where he played as a right winger, that made coach Karim Bencherifa take note of him. The talented youngster also won the Man of the Tournament award in Subroto Cup with MB SAIL academy. With no genuine left winger in the Bagan squad at the moment and with Anthony Periera departing and Manish Bhargav injured, Malik has an important role in the team and even started in the second round match against Churchill Brothers. Malik then scored on his Calcutta Football League debut with Mohun Bagan when he netted Bagan’s first goal in 3-0 win over Army XI . Malik ‘s pace and trickery with the ball is definitely an asset to Mohun Bagan and the fans are no doubt going to see more of the youngster in the season.
Other notable youngsters who to watch out for include Mandar Rao Desai, Shallum Pires (Both Dempo), Richard Costa (Churchill Brothers), Fanai Lalrempuia, Velington Rocha (Pune FC) among others. With clubs having a hard time to maintain financial stability due to ever increasing wages of both Indian and foreign players, youth development is the way forward and a lot of I-League clubs have realized this and are now focusing more on this aspect. The rise of promising youngsters will not only increase the brand value of I-League but also provide talented players for the national team.