Sahal named ‘AIFF Emerging Player of the Year’ after remarkable season

Sahal Abdul Samad has bagged the ‘AIFF Emerging Player of the Year’ award for a breakthrough campaign at both the club and country level. Sahal’s rousing performances in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19 season for Kerala Blasters had already been recognized at the end of the campaign, where he won the ‘ISL Emerging Player of the Season’ honour.

The 22-year-old featured in all but one fixture for the south-coast club last season, playing well over 1200 minutes. He scored only one goal, which came at home to Chennaiyin FC in mid-February. However, the recognition had to do more with the manner of his performances rather than his numbers at the upper end of the pitch.

Despite being very young, Sahal showed great maturity throughout the season, delivering key passes, going through players, and proving to be the only consistent performer in the team. The midfielder had real guile and command on the ball, passing it around with close to 70% accuracy. In the defensive phase, Sahal was less influential, but nonetheless had 42 tackles, 12 interceptions and 11 blocks to his name.

Internationally, Sahal first represented the U-23s in the recent AFC Championships, following which Igor Stimac called him up for the King’s Cup camp. He impressed and earned his flight to Buriram, where his debut came in the very first match against Curacao. Although he didn’t really stamp his authority, Sahal showed bits and pieces of his raw talent.

The midfielder started against Tajikistan in the nation’s 2019 Hero Intercontinental Cup opener, and again, proved to be one of the better performers on the field. Without doubt, a lot would be expected of him in the subsequent matches, as the Blue Tigers try to defend their title.

Want to know who picked up the top honour of the AIFF Player of the Year? Click here.

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