Showing the promise: A look at the Emerging Player of the League award winners in every Hero ISL season
The Hero Indian Super League (ISL) is a competition that carries the flag of Indian football as its premier football competition and boasts the best players of the nation.
But apart from hosting the best footballing action in the country, the Hero ISL is also the budding ground for the best young talent in India.
The competition that has always placed emphasis on providing a platform for blooding in youngsters has seen several players emerge that have eventually gone on to represent the Indian national team.
The Hero ISL rewards the best young player of the season with the Emerging Player of the League award at the end of every season.
Here’s a look back at the players who have received this honour in every Hero ISL season so far:
Hero ISL 2014: Sandesh Jhingan (Kerala Blasters FC)
One of India’s best defenders of his generation, Jhingan truly announced his arrival on the Indian football scene with his phenomenal performances during the inaugural edition of the Hero ISL when he featured for the Kerala Blasters FC.
Still just 21 at the time, Jhingan displayed his quality even as he came up against a few of the most famed attackers in world football that had graced the Hero ISL in 2014.
He played over 1200 minutes in 14 matches for Kerala Blasters FC and also provided two assists during the campaign helping him with the Emerging Player of the League award.
Hero ISL 2015: Jeje Lalpakhlua (Chennaiyin FC)
Jeje Lalpekhlua was tipped as the striker that would be the next big thing in Indian football after Sunil Chhetri and he did his reputation no harm with the fantastic season in the Hero ISL in 2015 while playing for Chennaiyin FC. Among the rare Indian strikers at the time, Jeje proved his class as he scored six and assisted three times during Chennaiyin FC’s title-winning campaign.
He played the perfect support cast to Stiven Mendoza as the Marco Materazzi-led side beat FC Goa in the final.
Still just 24 at the time, Jeje was adjudged the Emerging Player of the League for his heroics that season.
Hero ISL 2016: Jerry Lalrinzuala (Chennaiyin FC)
Another Chennaiyin FC player, Jerry Lalrinzuala won the Emerging Player of the League award in 2016 after a truly impressive performance from the youngster who was just 18 at the time.
Playing as a full-back, Jerry was a constant menace on the flanks and made a mark as an attacking full-back. He became the youngest player to score a goal for Chennaiyin FC when he scored his only goal of the campaign. In addition, he also provided two assists. He was the shining light in an otherwise disappointing campaign for the Marina Machans who finished seventh in the table.
Hero ISL 2017-18: Lalruatthara (Kerala Blasters FC)
Another promising young full-back, Lalruatthara scooped the prize in the Hero ISL 2017-18 season. Playing for Kerala Blasters FC, the fans were in awe of this energetic youngster who was just 23 at the time.
He played 17 matches for the Kerala Blasters FC and was one of their most consistent performers that season. He was the top tackling Indian player that season with 85 tackles to his name and was richly deserving of the award.
Hero ISL 2018-19: Sahal Abdul Samad (Kerala Blasters FC)
The boy with a silky touch, Sahal Abdul Samad, won admirers far beyond Kerala for the way he dazzled around the pitch. He was one of those players that would get fans on the edge of their seats every time the ball came to him.
Even though he scored just one goal that season, his enormous talent was there for everyone to see. Just 21 at the time, Sahal commanded respect from opponent players as he emerged as one of the most threatening players in the Kerala Blasters FC camp.
The young prodigy deservedly won the Emerging Player of the League award in Hero ISL 2018-19.
Hero ISL 2019-20: Sumit Rathi (ATK FC)
Young and sound centre-backs are rare and Sumit Rathi was exactly that for ATK FC in Hero ISL 2019-20 season that ended in glory for the Antonio Habas-coached side.
Rathi was a mainstay in defence for the Kolkata-based side and played 14 matches for the team.
He was equally sound in a back three as well as a back four and could also play in full-back positions allowing Habas great tactical flexibility.
He showed great consistency for a player that turned 19 during that season and deservedly won the Emerging Player of the League.
Hero ISL 2020-21: Lalengmawia Ralte (NorthEast United FC)
A midfield maestro, Lalengmawia Ralte grew as Hero ISL 2020-21 season progressed, pulling the strings for NorthEast United FC.
He was equally good at breaking up play and building moves as his energy coupled with great ability on the ball made him an almost complete midfielder at 19.
He was instrumental in helping NorthEast United FC reach the semi-finals and was awarded the Emerging Player of the League award for his contribution.
Hero ISL 2021-22: Roshan Naorem (Bengaluru FC)
A young full-back who burst onto the scene, Roshan Naorem was one of the highlights of Hero ISL 2021-22 season and deservedly won the Emerging Player of the League award.
Playing as an attacking full-back, Roshan supplied seven assists for Bengaluru FC, making him the topmost Indian assist provider in the season and the joint second overall.
His ability on set-pieces also caught the fans’ eye as he became an instant darling for the West Block Blues.
Roshan translated his club form on the international stage and was one of the most impressive players for India during the third round of the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers.