The 2021-22 season of the Indian Super League (ISL) will start on November 19 with three-time champions ATK Mohan Bagan taking on Kerala Blasters on opening night. With every new season of the ISL comes a new breed of young Indian superstars who are ready to shine on the biggest footballing stage in the country.
In the past years, players like Sandesh Jhingan, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Liston Colaco have emerged as stars and have represented India at the highest stage. This success has led them to be recognised worldwide too. Take the case of Sandesh Jhingan. One of the best emerging players from the first season of the ISL, Jhingan is currently playing for HNK Sibenik in the Croatian top-tier league, Prva HN.
As the flares of the new season ignite, The Bridge Chronicle brings you a list of five young players that can break out in the 2021-22 Indian Super League season.
Vikram Pratap Singh
Coming from a victorious 2020-21 ISL season with Mumbai City FC, Vikram Pratap Singh is looking forward to having another successful campaign. Singh started his youth career at Chandigarh Football Academy and was signed by the Indian Arrows in 2018.
Under Sergio Lobera, Singh came off the bench ten times in the last ISL, where he put up solid performances, showing off his vision and ball carrying abilities. Vikram also had an incredible start to his India career playing in the AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers. His best performance came against Oman, where he scored the winning goal and earned a penalty for the team.
Emanuel Lalchhanchhuaha will make ISL debut for NorthEast United FC this season after signing a three-year contract in August. Emanuel started his career in U Mumba FC and the Mizoram junior team. After U Mumba FC, he was picked up by Bengaluru FC and was an integral part of their junior team. At 16, Emanuel made his Hero Elite League in the 2018-19 season.
In his two seasons with Bengaluru, FC has emerged as one of the more complete young midfielders in the country. Emmanuel is a free-moving, attacking midfielder with a great footballing IQ. He is also a dependable passer and can create space for his teammates.
Muhammed Nemil Vailiyattil was one of the brightest stars in FC Goa’s maiden Durand Cup victory. Nemil’s attacking prowess was in full effect as he scored four goals in the six games in FC Goa’s victorious campaign. Originally from Kozhikode in Kerala, Nemil is a product of the Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC).
His incredible performances with RFYC helped him win the Mumbai District Football Association (MDFA) League Super Division’s best midfielder award. Nemil also won the best player award in the Vedanta Youth Cup and the Subroto Cup.
Then, in March 2019, Nemil was called to play in Spain with the Marcet High-Performance academy. Soon he was picked by the Barcelona-based third division club FE Grama for their under-19 squad. Before the 2021-22 season, FC Goa was successful in signing Nemil on a loan from his Spanish Club.
Haobam Tomba Singh
Haobam Tomba Singh is an 18-year-old midfielder from Manipur who plays for SC East Bengal. He became the second-youngest player in ISL history after making his debut last season for the Red and Gold Brigade against the Kerala Blasters. Singh was picked by East Bengal from the Classic Football Academy in 2020 and immediately made an impact.
Under coach Robbie Fowler, Singh started in four matches where he displayed grit and discipline. Haobam can control the midfield and can find open players on the front line. Playing just four games has given Haobam a full opportunity to flourish under real game pressure. But this season, with recent rules changes allowing only four foreign players on the field, he will get more game time.
Bidyashagar Singh Khangembam
Bidyashagar Singh Khangembam is one of Indian football’s brightest young players. Singh signed with Bengaluru FC this year after an incredible I-league season with his boyhood team, Tiddim Road Athletic Union FC. He scored 12 goals in the 2020-21 season to become only the fourth Indian player to win the golden boot award in the I-League. He won the ‘Hero of the Season’ award and was part of the I-League ‘Team of the Season.’
Playing with stars like Sunil Chettri, Udanta Singh and Edmund Lalrindika; Bidyashagar Singh will have to fight for a starting spot. But with his lighting speed and razor-sharp finishing abilities, Bidyashagar could score goals even after coming off the bench. Through his time in the I-League, he has proven that he is a big-game and doesn’t shy away from big moments. So his stint in the ISL promises to be an entertaining event.