ISL: Kerala Blasters agree deal to sign Minerva Punjab's Nongdamba Naorem in 2019

Nongdamba Naorem, representing India in the U-17 World Cup (Image: Facebook)
Nongdamba Naorem, representing India in the U-17 World Cup (Image: Facebook)

Nongdamba Naorem will be a Kerala Blasters player soon as the Indian Super League (ISL) franchise has agreed on a deal with Minerva Punjab to bring him on for the next season.

Blasters have offered the 18-year-old a three-year contract, which will keep him at Kochi until the end of the 2021-22 season, sources said.

Naorem will move from Minerva's base in Panchkula to southern India only at the end of the season. The clubs agreed on a Rs 10 lakh transfer fee for the young prospect.

Naorem was part of the Indian U-17 side which played in the FIFA 2017 U-17 World Cup. A midfielder by trade, Naorem is known for his dribbling skills which gives opposition defenders a torrid time. He has previously said that he likes to emulate Eden Hazard's dribbling skills.

Naorem spent the last season on loan with the All India Football Federation's Development side Indian Arrows. While playing for Arrows, Naorem scored a wonder goal against Shillong Lajong last season in an I-League match, which sent the Indian football fraternity into a frenzy.

Before the U-17 World Cup, Naorem struck the equaliser for India in their Torneo de 4 Naciones (Four Nations Tournament) in Mexico, which helped the team earn a draw after losing to Colombia and Mexico.

In the U-17 World Cup group game against the USA, Naorem skipped past a couple of defenders but faltered in the finish. However, his performance even in the 0-3 loss to India.

In the 2018-19 I-League season, Naorem started in Minerva's opening game against Churchill and was substituted in the second half. In the next game against Real Kashmir, he came off the bench but could not inspire Minerva to a victory.

Nongdamba Naorem in Minerva Punjab colours
Nongdamba Naorem in Minerva Punjab colours

Naorem started his youth career with DSK Shivajians but the lack of game time saw him move to Minerva in 2016. Since then, the 18-year-old has represented India at the U-17 as well as the U-20 level.

Interestingly, Naorem started his career as a goalkeeper but would dribble along the pitch with the ball, which forced his coach to play him as an outfield player.

"My father asked me to concentrate on the dream of playing football fully," Naorem had said in an interview with Bangalore Mirror before the U-17 World Cup. "He calls me up every day after practice. He wants me to be focussed on the game and avoid injuries by taking good care of the body."

Blasters are known for their investment in youth, having roped in Dheeraj Singh and Jeakson Singh before. While Dheeraj was the goalkeeper of the U-17 side, Jeakson scored India's only goal in the global competition.

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Edited by Sripad
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