I-League 2012-13 Review: Team of the Season
Here is Sportskeeda’s I-League team of the season. Like the rules, we select three foreigners in the eleven with one among the substitutes. We have opted for a 4-4-2 formation.
Goalkeeper: Sandip Nandy (Churchill Brothers)
The 38-year-old has simply been revitalised at Churchill Brothers after being denied a new deal by East Bengal at the end of last season. Nandy was instrumental in Churchill’s second league triumph, keeping the maximum clean sheets in this season’s I-League. Such fine club form also saw the custodian return to the senior national team and further prove his critics wrong. Nandy played every minute of Churchill’s I-League campaign and became the first player to win the Indian league with four different clubs and bagged his fifth title overall.
Right Back: Denzil Franco (Churchill Brothers)
The 27-year-old was by far the most consistent right back in the I-League and this was undoubtedly the best campaign of his career. There has been a vast improvement in the defensive side of his game and Denzil also contributed going forward, bagging two assists and playing his part in many other goals. The Goan club felt Denzil’s absence whenever he has been missing and the former Mahindra defender has also established himself as a regular in the Indian national team.
Center Back: Anas Edathodika (Pune FC)
Anas is another player who enjoyed his best season in this campaign, starting in each of Pune’s 26 games and playing a key role in their runners-up finish. The 26-year-old has improved by leaps and bounds under coach Derrick Pereira and deservingly won the Player of the Year award at Pune FC’s annual awards night on Saturday. Anas was highly consistent this term, holding his own against some of the best foreign strikers and thus merits a place in Wim Koevermans’ next squad selection.
Center Back: Dharmaraj Ravanan (Churchill Brothers)
The Tamil Nadu-born player was another key figure in Churchill Brothers’ title triumph, starting in 25 matches. Ravanan was made the captain by technical director Subhash Bhowmick midway through the season and the extra responsibility seemed to bring the best out of the 25-year-old. He first formed a great partnership with Bilal Najjarin and then raised his game after the Lebanon defender’s departure and later adapted well to combine with Senegalese Lamine Tamba at the heart of the defence. Ravanan is another player who deserves an India call-up.
Left Back: Harmanjot Singh Khabra (East Bengal)
There was a dearth of consistent left backs this season and thus we have opted for East Bengal’s Mr. Versatile in this role. Very few Indian players of any position were as consistent as Khabra all season because the Punjabi lad did a job for his team wherever he was asked to play. The 24-year-old contributed with three goals and became indispensable to the red-and-gold brigade. Khabra was unfortunate to get injured before the final few weeks of the season and even more unlucky not be called up to the national team for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers.
Right Midfielder: Arata Izumi (Pune FC)
2013 will always go down as a memorable year in Arata’s life as the Japanese-born player became an Indian international and also played a big role in Pune’s highest-ever finish in the I-League. Arata operated all across the midfield and did well in every position, scoring five times. The 30-year-old has become indispensable to Pune FC and is one of the few goal-scoring wide midfielders in the league. Arata’s technique and experience was crucial for Pune this season as he often popped up with an important goal or assist.
Central Midfielder: Lenny Rodrigues (Churchill Brothers)
The effects of a long season for club and country were evident in Lenny’s game in the first half of the season as he wasn’t at his best, but the India international picked up his game after the turn of the year and played a vital part in Churchill’s second title success. After winning the Nehru Cup with India, Lenny was tipped to be Climax Lawrence’s long-term successor and the 25-year-old dealt with the expectations in a very positive way and was one of the best midfielders of this campaign.
Central Midfielder: Beto (Churchill Brothers)
Churchill Brothers’ success wasn’t down to any one player in particular but Beto’s class and experience was pivotal. The Brazilian scored 13 goals and bagged six assists and became the first foreigner to win the title with two different clubs in the I-League era. Beto has been an inspirational figure in the Goan club’s dressing room and despite being 34 now, he seems to be getting better every year. The former Dempo man got the best out of all the Churchill strikers and is also a contender for player of the season.
Left Midfielder: CK Vineeth (Prayag United)
Vineeth, who left United Kerala to join Prayag United in the summer, turned out to be one of the best signings of this season’s I-League. Vineeth was a livewire on the left flank for the purple shirts as he not only created chances but also scored seven in the campaign, thus making him the highest Indian scorer. The hat-trick against Air India was the 24-year-old’s most memorable performance and it came just a few days before his international debut against Palestine in Kochi, Kerala.
Center Forward: Ranti Martins (Prayag United)
The Nigerian finished as the top scorer for the third straight season with 27 goals for fourth-placed Prayag United. That means Ranti has scored 89 goals in the last three campaigns and the only reason he failed to reach the milestone of 30 this time is because Prayag were not consistent over the course of the season. Without Ranti’s goals, Prayag probably would have been in the bottom half as many of their stars failed to live up to expectations. The Kolkata club could struggle to retain Ranti next season.
Center Forward: Edeh Chidi (East Bengal)
If Ranti was the most prolific striker over the course of the season, his compatriot Chidi was by far the best forward in the second half of the campaign. The Nigerian scored 11 in this calendar year; no other player netted more. At times, Chidi, who scored 18 goals in this campaign, single-handedly kept East Bengal in the title race and it’s not just the goals that make him indispensable to the Kolkata club, because he can also combine with his teammates well. Individually, this has been Chidi’s best campaign but unfortunately he doesn’t have an I-League title to show for it.
Coach/TD: Subhash Bhowmick
AFC rules might prevent this legend from being the head coach of an I-League club but the former India international doesn’t need a license to be coach of the team of the season. Bhowmick’s reputation took a beating since his last league success with East Bengal in 2004 but it has been restored by winning the I-League with Churchill Brothers and thus becoming the first coach/technical director to win the Indian league with two different clubs. It’s his third title overall and no one would bet against him to win a few more and enhance his legacy.
Karanjit Singh (Salgaocar)
Arnab Mondal (East Bengal)
Gurjinder Kumar (Pune FC)
Mehtab Hossain (East Bengal)
Francis Fernandes (Salgaocar)
Lalrindika Ralte (East Bengal)
Akram Moghrabi (Churchill Brothers)