Sportskeeda continues the review of the 2012-13 I-League by paying tribute to the best young performers.
Note: Only players who were aged 23 or below at the start of the season are being considered.
Shouvik Ghosh (Pailan Arrows)
After impressing in the 2011-12 campaign, the 21-year-old had an even better season this time at Arrows under Australian coach Arthur Papas. Shouvik often showed maturity beyond his years and thus was rightly made the skipper. He gave strong performances against some of the top nations of the continent in the under-22 Asian Cup qualifiers and improved further at Arrows in the I-League, starting in 24 of their 26 matches. The youngster’s positioning and anticipation has impressed many including India coach Wim Koevermans and thus Shouvik has been part of the senior team setup since the 2012 Nehru Cup, so a first international cap shouldn’t be far away.
Arnab Mondal (East Bengal)
The former India Under-23 international was instrumental in East Bengal’s good start earlier in the campaign and is one of the main reasons why the Kolkata club ended with the best defensive record in the I-League. At times, Arnab looked even more reliable than the Nigerian Uga Okpara, as the 23-year-old often held his own against some of the best foreign strikers of the competition. East Bengal’s title challenge derailed in the second half of the season mainly due to the central defender’s absence because of an injury that was picked up in the national team’s preparatory camp for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers.
Lalrindika Ralte (East Bengal)
The midfielder from Mizoram had a good season for Churchill Brothers in 2011-12, scoring six goals from midfield but it was always going to be a tougher challenge at East Bengal as he would be constantly under media scrutiny. But the pressure brought the best out of Lalrindika as he found the back of the net five times and set up many other goals. The 20-year-old scored some beauties with his strong left foot and despite his inexperience, often stepped up in big games and bailed out his club in every competition. Lalrindika was undoubtedly one of the best creative midfielders of this season’s I-League.
Bikramjit Singh (Churchill Brothers)
Like so many Indian youngsters in the I-League these days, Bikramjit came through the Arrows project as he spent two years at the AIFF’s developmental side before joining Churchill Brothers in the summer of 2012. The former India youth international was a regular at the heart of Churchill’s midfield for the majority of this campaign and was easily one of the most consistent young central midfielders. Although his main job was to win back possession and break up the opposition’s attack, the 20-year-old was equally good on the ball and he scored the all-important second goal in the 2-1 win over Prayag United in Kolkata.
Dawson Fernandes (Sporting Clube)
The 22-year-old scored six times for the Flaming Oranje in the 2011-12 I-League and this time had another solid campaign, netting five goals. His season got off to a flying start as he bagged three in the Federation Cup and caught the attention of Koevermans and his coaching staff. Dawson was included in the preliminary squad for the international friendly against Yemen that later got cancelled. The striker performed consistently in the I-League despite his club’s struggles in the first half of the season. In a league that is dominated by foreign strikers, Dawson was one of the few Indian forwards who excelled.Published 21 May 2013, 00:42 IST