At least two major leagues in Europe are set for a nail biting finish, with the last round of matches also expected to shoulder a telling impact. The Airtel I-League is no exception and with only three rounds to go, any of the top three teams could clinch the coveted trophy this month.
Obviously this edition of the I-league could be one of the best contenders among others for the most exciting ever. And usually accompanying a great season is great highlights and memories. Midst numerous talking points which have surfaced as the season has rolled along- the top scorers list would pleasantly surprise any keen Indian football follower. The list, which almost every season consisted of the foreign players, rarely flaunted Indian names. The fact was set straight by almost all the clubs plying their trade in the top division- If the club wants to be successful, a top quality “foreign “ striker is a must. But this season we see two bright names shining like a diamond in the list. Sunil Chettri- Indian football captain is leading the way with thirteen goals so far, followed by one more name having an Indian tri-color against his name. Balwant Singh, the former JCT player has out shone many international strikers in the league to burst on the scene.
Sunny days wouldn’t be special, if it wasn’t for rain
Joy wouldn’t feel so good, if it wasn’t for pain
: 50 Cent
The aforementioned lines pretty much summarize Balwant Singh’s journey so far. The 27 year lad from Hoshiarpur, Punjab had a knack for the beautiful since his childhood days. He was scouted at a very young age by his principal and teachers at the Khalsa High School in the small town of Baddon (Mahilpur). Mahilpur has been a hub of football in Punjab for many lads and lasses plying their trade and eventually dreaming to make it big in the Indian football arena. Importantly, Balwant took a pivotal decision to take up the beautiful game professionally.
The dream in Punjab usually starts with playing for some robust local team (Mahilpur football Club in Balwant’s case) and then joining Jagatjit Cotton Textile Mills FC. Owing to the legacy of the club, Balwant Singh made no exception. After two years at the Mahilpur Football Club and then cashing on the support of his family, Balwant joined the Millmen in 2007. He initially plyed his trade for their coveted academy. After an year of inspiring performances with the academy, he was inducted in the squad for I-league in 2008 . The Hoshirpur born lad then donned their famous jersey for three seasons. At a very young age and midst scarce opportunities, Balwant made the most of his appearances on the pitch and notched up 7 goals with 3 assists. He was also part of the squad which traveled to the United Kingdom as a part of deal with Wolverhampton Wanderers. Sadly, JCT got disbanded but Balwant had certainly managed to grab enough eyeballs to get roped in by Salgaocar SC for the 2011-12 season courtesy his impressive performances.
Deservedly, Singh got a call up for national duty as he was inducted into the India B and India-U23 squad in 2010 for the AFC Challenge Cup. He made his debut in a 2-1 loss against Kyrgyzstan in the same tournament. Later that year, Balwant made a full appearance for India and topped it with a goal against Singapore in the Asian Games.
Salgaocar move was nothing but futile for the sturdy lad as a groin injury kept him out of the action. His two year spell season a the Goan club was a forgettable one, but he gained a lot of experience by playing for the Greens in the AFC Cup matches. After things fell apart between the striker and the Goan Club, he was shrewdly signed by defending champions Churchill Brothers last year. Balwant Singh arrived with a bang in the league, raising a lot of eyebrows. He netted three times in his first seven outings, grabbing eyeballs from various corners of print media. Right now Balwant is sitting on the top of his best season ever, hitting the back of the net nine times in the league. He single handedly won the Red Machines the coveted Federation Cup netting four times, including the final. The AFC Cup witnessed Balwant’s magic, as the attacker went past five defenders to net his debut goal for the club against Home United.
For a striker, Balwant posseses lethal characteristics. He is quick, agile and at the same time he flaunts a sturdy physique. He has a good leap and is never shy of tackling in the middle of the park. Churchill Brothers grabbed the first available opportunity of inking the deal with Singh, which is now paying healthy dividends. Last month Balwant received a due call up for the senior side for a FIFA friendly against Bangaldesh in Goa. The ease with which the striker is going past defenders in the League and also in the continental competition, his confidence is only growing. Indian football fans would obviously delighted to see Sunil Chettri’s name on the top of the scorers list, but no doubt every fanatic is joyous for this talented Punjabi striker.
Balwant Singh has seen the bad times, witnessed his side get relegated, warmed the bench as a frustrating groin injury kept him out, but now he is all set to live his dream. His fans would hope that the trend continues as The Maharaj gears for his journey in the blue shirt. As Churchill claw their way back to safety, Balwant Singh would be hoping that his goals help keeping his parent club afloat this season as his fans keenly watch.