Local talents soaring high and growing in stature in Hero ISL 2020-21 firmament
The Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) has quite a reputation when it comes to finding and grooming talents right since its inception. The 2020-21 season is no different and has already seen many gems come to the fore and express themselves on the pitch. Some of these names seem to be getting stronger and stronger with each passing match. Here, as Hero ISL 2020-21 heads into a two-day Christmas break after 38 games, we take a closer look at some of these players who weren’t household names at the start of the season but in a matter of few weeks now have become very important to their respective teams.
To say that the 19-year-old fullback from Balrampur is enjoying a fine debut Hero ISL season with Hyderabad FC could be a slight disservice to the youngster. Part of a solid backline that has kept two clean sheets so far, Akash Mishra has shown maturity beyond his years. He has played the full 90 minutes in all six of his team’s matches so far and has looked secure while defending as well as enterprising when marauding forward from the wings. His performances in his debut season haven’t gone unnoticed and have even drawn praise from his head coach Manuel Marquez. "…He is very quiet, has a very good mentality. For me, he will be one of the best left-backs in India soon, of course he has to improve," Marquez said earlier in the season.
After getting a taste of Hero ISL football with Chennaiyin last season, 21-year-old Deepak Tangri seems to be kicking on under the tutelage of head coach Csaba Laszlo. He has already more appearances (6) and minutes (472) than last season i.e. five matches and 107 minutes. A combative presence in the middle of the park who loves a hard tackle, Tangri always seems to be in the thick of the action and is seldom dispossessed or gives the ball away as his impressive passing accuracy of 81.48% attests for. He has impressed all and one and Laszlo is particularly impressed. "Deepak has really impressed me. He has not played many matches in the Hero ISL, but he has impressed me in the middle of the park," Laszlo said earlier in the season.
William Lalnunfela has enjoyed quite a career so far. Part of the Mizoram side that won the National Football Championship in 2014, Lalnunfela has always been a winner and it’s something Jamshedpur head coach Owen Coyle alluded to at the time of his signing. “William is a proven talent having won the Hero I-League with Aizawl. I see a big future,” Coyle said.
That said, the Hero ISL was always going to be a different ball game altogether but it’s safe to say that on early evidence, Lalnunfela hasn’t looked out of place. The 25-year-old offers Jamshedpur’s attack a different dimension and appears an important player in Coyle’s scheme of things. Lalnunfela has made four appearances so far and has contributed an assist – something he will undoubtedly be looking to build on as the season progresses.
After being starved of game time during his time with FC Goa, Liston Colaco joined Hyderabad in the middle of last season and scored twice for his new side before the end of the campaign. Hero ISL 2020-21 though feels like the flamboyant attacker’s breakout campaign. The 22-year-old has been electric on the pitch this season and has demonstrated tremendous courage on the ball. Not afraid of running at defenders and taking them on, Colaco has proven to be a handful. Even though he hasn’t found the back of the net yet, he has provided two assists and already has more minutes on the pitch than last season. Hyderabad head coach Marquez waxed lyrical about Colaco earlier in the season. "Liston Colaco for me is a very good player. He is a player with a lot of quality. He can play in different positions. He is very powerful and for me, he is a young player with a great future," Marquez said.
The versatile Mumbai City midfielder has already played more minutes in 2020-21 than previous two seasons combined. The absence of Mandar Rao Dessai has helped pave the way for Vignesh Dakshinamurthy and he has cashed in on the opportunity big time. He has started five of Mumbai’s seven matches so far and is looking good for the rest of the season. The 22-year-old, who scored his first-ever Hero ISL goal against Hyderabad FC last week, averages 21.43 passes this season. "I'm very happy with Vignesh. He is playing really well and this goal is a gift for him," head coach Sergio Lobera acknowledged Vignesh’s contribution following his goal. Defensively too, the former Ozone FC Bengaluru player has been impressive, making seven interceptions, four tackles, six blocks and four clearances so far. With age and Lobera’s trust on his side, this season could be the real making of him.