In every season of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL), we see young players coming in and making a name for themselves. At the end of each season, the best young player from the league is awarded with the Hero Emerging Player of the League award. This season, the player that took the league by storm and wrote his name in the history books was Bengaluru FC's very own Sivasakthi Narayanan.

The Blues had one of the most memorable seasons in the Hero ISL history. After a disappointing start, the Blues found themselves lingering in the bottom half of the league table, but the turn of the year brought about a change in fortune for Simon Grayson's side. Sivasakthi was the spark that ignited the impeccable flame for the Blues that swept everyone off of their feet and propelled them to the final. The final brought their magical run to a halt with the Blues going down to ATK Mohun Bagan on penalties. For the 21-year-old, it was an unfortunate end to a brilliant season as he was stretchered off the field at the beginning of the final.

The Journey

Hailing from Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu, Sivasakthi started his journey with Raman Vijayan Soccer Schools before joining Bengaluru FC's B team. Narayanan started flourishing and his goal-scoring abilities were immediately on display with him bagging 15 goals including two hat-tricks in Bangalore Super Division.

The youngster made his senior debut for the Blues in the 2021 AFC Group stage against Basundhara Kings. He made his Hero ISL debut during the 2021-22 season and made seven appearances for the Blues. However, his breakthrough moment for the Blues came in the Durand Cup 2022, where he led Bengaluru FC to their first-ever Durand Cup triumph while finishing the tournament as the team's top scorer.

Breaking into the team

Sivasakthi couldn't replicate his Durand Cup exploits at the onset of the Hero ISL 2022-23 season. The youngster picked up an injury midway during the season and had to patiently wait for his opportunity to make his way back into the starting eleven. With the likes of Sunil Chhetri and Roy Krishna, two Hero ISL veterans and proven goalscorers of the game ahead in the pecking order, Narayanan had to work even harder.

It was not the best of the starts of the season for Bengaluru FC with only one victory in the first six games. And when Chhetri and Krishna began misfiring, it was the young forward who stepped in when his team needed the most. Narayanan's energy, tenacity, and sheer hunger for goals got the best out of him. Narayanan scored in Bengaluru FC's first game of the year 2023 against NorthEast United FC, in what was the start of the team's longest-ever winning run. Learning from a legend of Indian football like Sunil Chhetri had a massive influence on Narayanan.

"When you've got players like Sunil Chhetri training with you daily, and you're learning from their experience, it can only benefit young players like Siva, who has come on leaps and bounds in the last few matches. And he's formed a great partnership with Roy Krishna. There's a great understanding between the two of them as well,” Hero ISL commentator Mark Tompkins spoke on the impact of Krishna and Chhetri on the striker

A new star in the making

After a turbulent start, Grayson made tweaks in the team and began the new year with the same ambitions, but a different mindset. Bengaluru FC looked like a different team after their first victory of 2023. Narayanan then set up Krishna for a goal in the side's following match and the partnership between the duo was blooming. The youngster troubled defences with his prolific finishing, off-the-ball runs, and nimble footwork coupled with his raw pace. Narayanan was involved in some way or the other as Bengaluru FC racked up victories with each passing game.

The forward climbed up the ladder with every match and his performances grew considerably. He finished the season as the joint-second goal scorer for Bengaluru FC with six goals and two assists in 17 matches.

"He's one of the best finishers I've ever seen, not just in India, but in the world," Hero ISL expert and commentator Erik Paartalu said about the attacking attributes of Sivasakthi.

"The way he's riding tackles and the way he finishes right now makes him so dangerous. He's got great composure for a young kid and that's something special," he commented. 

In Sivasakthi, Bengaluru FC have found a fearless attacker who takes on experienced defenders without second thoughts, producing an all-around performance with his link-up play and his hunger for goals. His two goals against FC Goa in the Bengaluru FC's last league match were the perfect example of his attacking and finishing prowess.

The youngster received praise from fans, experts, teammates, coaches throughout the season for his efforts. The striker will look to continue his exploits going forward after getting rewarded for his breakthrough season with the Hero Emerging Player of the League award.