5 greatest players in I-League history
After the hoopla, the glitz, the glamour, the Bollywood and the cricket that surrounded the ISL, it is time for the poorer cousin to take centre-stage. The I-League will begin on Saturday with the defending champions Bengaluru FC hosting Shillong Lajong at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore.
In its 10th year now, the I-League probably assumes more significance now than it ever has. If the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) plans turn out to be executed as planned, this could be the last time we see the I-League as a separate tournament – with a proposed merger between this and the ISL.
But having said that, there have been a fair share of fabulous players to have taken the field in India in the I-League. Players who have changed the course of their teams and contributed a whole lot to the overall development of Indian Football.
We take a look at five such players – individuals who have had the biggest impact on the league, the best players to have graced the I-League in its last nine years.
#1 Odafa Onyeka Okolie
Odafa is probably the deadliest striker to have played in the I-League. He came to Indian football in 2003, when he joined Mohammedan Sporting. But, he catapulted into the limelight around 3 years later, when he joined Churchill Brothers.
Odafa, along with Ranti Martins has been one of the stellar foreigners to have ever played in the I-League.
When the I-League was started, with the disbanding of the National Football League, Odafa took centre-stage for Churchill. After Dempo had won the first season of the I-League, Odafa decided that he was going to impose himself on the league.
In 2007/08, he scored 22 goals in 16 games as he finished as the top-scorer in the league, and Churchill became champions.
He has played for Mohun Bagan and Sporting Clube de Goa in later seasons, but his goalscoring exploits have never stopped. He has scored more than 200 goals in his career in Indian football and at an astounding ratio of almost one goal per game.
When Mohun Bagan signed Odafa in 2010, he became the highest paid footballer ever in Indian football, as he earned around Rs. 2 crores for the duration of the I-League season.