I-League 2017/18: Confusion surrounds future of India's U-17 stars Jeakson Singh, Nongdamba Naorem and Anwar Ali
They may have represented India at the U-17 World Cup, but now their future seems uncertain.
What's the story?
Minerva Punjab has stunned everyone by bagging their first ever I-League title after defeating Churchill Brothers by a 1-0 margin on Thursday. Meanwhile, the newly created team of Indian football starlets Indian Arrows finished bottom of the table although it was a great exposure for the young colts.
Incidentally, three of Minerva's young stars, Nongdamba Naorem, Jeakson Singh Thounaojam and Anwar Ali, are set to return to the Chandigarh-based club after completing their loan spells with the Arrows.
In case you didn't know
Jeakson Singh created history last year when he became the first ever Indian to score a goal in a FIFA World Cup (U-17). Meanwhile, Naorem shot to fame when he scored a wonder goal against Shillong Lajong at the Ambedkar Stadium, in New Delhi, as he weaved his way past four defenders. Anwar Ali, on the other hand, was also highly applauded for his performances in the World Cup.
The heart of the matter
According to Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj, all three of the players are set to come back to the Chandigarh-based club.
"Nong (Nongdamba Naorem), Jeakson and Anwar Ali will be back. They want to play for Minerva," he said.
However, Bajaj did not mince his words, when he revealed the uncertainty of the situation. "If the AFF force them to play for the Arrows, there's not much I can do. Their loan was till the end of the season, so they should be back here now."
The Super Cup starts from 15 March 2018 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, and Minerva Punjab also get to play in the AFC Cup. If the three youngsters are given a nod by AIFF to play for Minerva, then they might also get a chance to represent their parent club at the continental level, which would be a huge exposure for them at such a young age.
Indian Arrows, despite finishing 8th, had a decent outing this season. But tournaments like the Super Cup and the AFC Champions League or the AFC Cup can be life-changing for the Indian youngsters if they get the chance.