Following Indian football for a little over 5 years has brought me both joy and frustation. Winning the AFC Challenge Cup and qualifying for the Asian Cup after 27 years along with back to back Nehru and SAFF Cup wins were definitely the highlights of this period. However, one thing that has frustrated many an Indian football fan has been the genuine lack of any International Stars in the Indian football team. So here are some players who can come good for India in the future.
Lalrindika Ralte: Churchill Brothers SC
Position : Left Wing
DOB:September 7, 1992
Dubbed as the successor to the legend Renedy Singh, this 19 year old is already a fan favorite. He was earlier a part of the youth setup of Churchill Brothers SC. He was then loaned out to the AIFF XI/Indian Arrows (Now Pailan Arrows), and scored the first goal in their existence. His dedication and commitment to continuously improve his free kicks and crosses seem be paying dividends as he is now widely regarded as the best winger in India. Apart from his free kicks, he also has notable dribbling skills and coupled with his pace, he can leave any defence bamboozled.
Singham Subhash Singh: Pune FC
Position : Striker
DOB: February 2, 1990
Subhash seems to be making some noise in Indian football circles for all the right reasons this season. Apart from scoring some crackers and having a hand in many more, its his speed and dedication that sets him apart from the rest. His performances has even led him overshadow the achievements of Indian star Jeje at Pune this year. Lovingly called the “Speedy Singh” by fans, he has made a mark on some big games, especially when his daunting run again Blackburn Rovers almost resulted in a goal for the Red Lizards. In the past , he has represented the Indian U-19 and U-23 age group sides, but now hopes to do the same with the senior side. Mentored by his elder brother and Air India striker Samson Singh, now he actively mentors his younger siblings back in Manipur to take up the beautiful game as a career, a decision that seems to have clicked for him.
Jeje Lalpekhlua: Pune FC
Position : Striker
DOB: 7 January 1991
Another former Indian Arrows lad, Jeje is already a star in his own right. He came to prominence when he scored four goals in his first three internationals for India. He then went on to lead the pack of Indian goalscorers in the 2010-2011 I-League season. Coming from a family of footballers, he represented the Mizoram U-19 side for the first time at just 16! Since then, he has become a regular in the Indian senior and U-23 side. He has also been the captain of the U-19 side. In 2011, he was called up for a weeks trials at Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers FC, but that was unsuccessful due to lack of playing time. When dubbed as the next Bhaichung Bhutia, he humbly responded,
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu: Kingfisher East Bengal FC
Position : Goalkeeper
DOB:February 3, 1992
At 6’5″, Gurpreet can easily be described as one of the tallest goalkeepers in Asian football today. Hailing from Punjab, its a surprise that he did not join the Phagwara based JCT FC (now disbanded). Always impressive in the selectors eye, he has played for the Indian U-19 and U-23 sides. He has also been called up for the senior national camp, but has never made an appearance for the side yet. A former player of the Indian Arrows, he is now back at the Kolkata giants Kingfisher East Bengal FC. Starting the season as the 2nd choice goalkeeper, he replaced Sandip Nandy in front of goal post in the Federation Cup. Since then, he has given strong performances which includes stopping four penalties in the final of the 2012 IFA Shield, that featured the likes of Brazilian giants Botafogo FR. He has impressed the likes of former Manchester City and Newcastle United keeper John Burridge with his performances in the Kolkata Derby in the 2011-12 I-League season.
Manandeep Singh: FC Air India
Position : Striker
DOB:November 3, 1992
Manandeep who leads the Indian scorers list in the current edition of the I-League is yet another former Indian Arrows player. Now under the watchful eyes of Santosh Kashyap at the young revolution that is FC Air India, Manan is crying out for a regular spot in the Indian national side. He has earlier represented India at virtually every level, from the U-14, U-16, U-19, U-23 to coming on as a substitute for the senior team this year against Oman. Standing at 6 ft, he is the target man that Indian football desperately needs and his physical strength makes him even tougher for defenders to deal with. Hailing from Hisar in Haryana, he seems to be spearheading the sudden spurt of football in the Northern Indian state.
With these 5 players, i conclude part 1 of this series of articles on young Indian talents. While this edition focused mainly on strikers, the next will focus mostly on midfielders.
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