The 2013/14 I-league campaign is near its fag-end and like every season, this term too has its set of top and flop foreigners. While some foreign players have helped their club to reach staggering heights, some have hugely let down their respective employers. Sean Rooney, Cornell Glen and John Johnson feature among the top performing foreign players while Odafa Okolie, James Moga and Lamine Tamba lead the list of under-performing foreigners.
Sean Rooney (Bengaluru FC)
The Australian has been vital in Bengaluru FC lifting the I-League trophy in their debut season. Rooney, who played for Salgaocar last season, has scored 10 league goals for the champions this term. The striker formed a lethal partnership with Sunil Chhetri and Robin Singh upfront, which proved pivotal in Bengaluru FC tasting success in their very first season amongst India’s elite clubs. Rooney may be eighth in the top goalscorers list in the I-League this season, but the importance of his goals cannot be denied; especially his opener in his side’s 4-2 win over Dempo on Monday, which assured them of the title. The 25-year-old has come a long way since his stint at Salgaocar, a club for whom he managed to score just twice.
Cornell Glen (Shillong Lajong)
Glen is one of the most high-profile foreigners to ply his trade in India in recent years. The 32-year-old is an ex-World Cupper, having represented Trinidad and Tobago in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Although the Caribbean nation were knocked out of the group stages of the tournament, Glen received accolades for his displays in the competition. The striker has managed to live up to the hype surrounding by banging in 14 goals in the I-League, thus becoming the joint-highest goalscorer along with Bengaluru FC’s Sunil Chhetri. Glen’s goalscoring prowess is one of the biggest factors behind Lajong being as high up fifth in the I-League standings presently. The striker may extend his stay in India as some of the nation’s top clubs are interested in roping him for the next season.
John Johnson (Bengaluru FC)
The 25-year-old is the only defender to feature in this list, which alone speaks volumes about Johnson’s massive contribution in helping Bengaluru FC clinch the I-League title. The tall centre-back has been a pillar of strength at the heart of the Blue and White’s defence, which has thus far conceded just 26 goals in the I-League, the fourth lowest in the division. In addition to his leadership qualities and his calming influence in defence, Johnson is also a menace from set-pieces. Rival players find it hard to contain the former Middlesbrough man, who has managed to scored three I-League goals. Johnson’s stellar displays have not gone unnoticed as Kolkata giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are keen to add the defender to their ranks for the 2014/15 campaign.
Odafa Okolie (Mohun Bagan)
The highest-paid player in India tops this list by some distance. Mohun Bagan depended heavily on the wily Nigerian goal-poacher for a successful I-League campaign this term, but he disappointed big time. Odafa spent a huge chunk of the season on the side-lines due to injuries, and on top of that his performances in most of the matches were woeful to say the least. Many supporters and officials were fed up with the player midway through the season due to the striker’s lackadaisical attitude as they questioned Odafa’s commitment towards Mohun Bagan. The Green and Maroon have the worst goalscoring record in the I-League with just 21 goals to their name, out of which Odafa has scored six, a very paltry return considering his huge wage demands. Mohun Bagan are feeling so much let down by Odafa’s performance this season that they are almost certain to end their three-year association with Odafa after the end of this I-League campaign.
James Moga (East Bengal)
East Bengal roped in James Moga with a lot of hope and expectation at the start of the season. The South Sudanese international, who scored 16 goals each in his previous two I-League seasons with Sporting Clube de Goa and Pune FC respectively, was expected to be a perfect foil for Chidi Edeh upfront. However, Moga has done everything apart from finding the back of the net regularly. The 30-year-old had a very negative impact in the Red and Gold dressing room as he first fell out with former East Bengal manager Marcos Falopa, followed by a spat with the Brazilian’s successor Armando Colcaco. Moga’s cold relation with his strike partner Chidi is also not unknown. To make matters worse, Moga has missed a sizeable part of the I-League campaign with injuries as East Bengal are still missing the services of the striker. A meager seven I-League goals in return for a big fat pay cheque along with a host of off-field tantrums are just not worth it.
Lamine Tamba (Rangdajied United)
The Senegalese footballer has been a huge disappointment for Rangdajied United this season as he failed to provide the desired solidarity to the Shillong-based club’s backline. The 28-year-old is an experienced campaigner in the Indian circuit, having been around in the country since 2007. Tamba, who has formerly played for Mahindra United, Pune, Air India and Churchill Brothers, has failed to live up to the expectation, which has seen him play in India for so long. The defender has been unsuccessful in helping his side from conceding sloppy goals, as Rangdajied have 38 goals against their name, the most in the I-League. Tamba’s poor outings have started people guessing whether the defender’s days in India are numbered or not.
Zero to Hero
Apart from the above mentioned players, one has to take the names of these two players, who have spectacularly turned around their season after switching clubs during the January transfer window. They are Ranty Martins and Tolgay Ozbey. Ranty, who put in lackluster performances for United Sports in the first-half of the season, was a completely changed player since switching his allegiance to Rangdajied United. The Nigerian scored eight goals in as many appearances for Rangdajied to steer the club away from relegation. Tolgay shares a similar story; the Australian, who was far from his best at Mohammedan Sporting, instantly hit the ground running at Dempo, for whom he has scored eight goals in just seven matches. The former East Bengal and Mohun Bagan striker’s goals were a major reason behind Dempo surging up to the middle of the I-League table from the relegation zone.