U-20 Hero ISL youngsters who can be breakaway stars in 2020
With another decade coming to an end and a new one beginning, perhaps there’s no better time to look forward and celebrate the future. While the past decade saw some tectonic changes in the realm of Indian football, including the advent of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL), the future promises much more and leading the charge will be a new generation of superstars. Some are yet to announce themselves on the big stage and a few already have, having shown glimpses of their talent, both in the Hero ISL and in national team colours.
Keeping with the theme of 2020, we take a look at the under-20 stars, currently plying their trade in the Hero ISL, who can help usher in a new era in Indian football in the coming decade.
Shubham Sarangi (Odisha FC)
Shubham Sarangi has been one of the standout players not only for Odisha FC but also in the Hero ISL this season. The 19-year-old has already clocked up 851 minutes of football this season, following up stellar displays with even better ones consistently. The fullback has made 53 tackles, 20 interceptions, 57 clearances and 18 blocks till now for Odisha, earning high praise from fans and experts alike. Even India head coach Igor Stimac has admitted that the youngster has impressed him considerably.
Jeakson Singh (Kerala Blasters FC)
Jeakson Singh made a name for himself while representing India in the U-17 FIFA World Cup back in 2017 and created history after scoring India’s first, and only, goal of the tournament in a group match against Colombia. Playing his first-ever Hero ISL season with Kerala Blasters FC this term, the 18-year-old Mizo midfielder has been one of the brightest sparks in an otherwise dismal Kerala team. The tenacious midfielder has already made eight appearances so far, and raked in some impressive numbers – 38 tackles, 12 blocks, 10 clearances and seven interceptions. The youngster also averages 43 passes per game with a whopping accuracy of 85.46% - consistency levels seldom seen in young players breaking through. Jeakson’s energy and calm demeanor is certain to make him a player to watch out for in 2020 and the coming decade.
Aniket Jadhav (Jamshedpur FC)
Having represented Indian Arrows in their last few seasons, 19-year-old striker Aniket Jadhav has already established himself as a fan-favourite among Jamshedpur fans despite featuring for only 263 minutes this term. Head coach Antonio Iriondo has heaped praises on the young forward on multiple occasions this season and his ability to play as the point man for the team as well as a playmaker of sorts from the deep can turn out to be a valuable asset for any team on the tactical front. He has already scored his first Hero ISL goal and a lot more will be expected of the young striker in 2020 and the coming year.
Rahul KP (Kerala Blasters FC)
Rahul KP has only made a handful of appearances for Kerala Blasters this season, but whenever given a chance you, the 18-year-old attacker has given a good account of himself. He scored on his debut and has been a lively presence whenever he has been on the field.
Narender Gahlot (Jamshedpur FC)
After missing the initial phase of the season owing to an injury, Narender Gahlot has played as a right back for Jamshedpur FC under Iriondo and managed to make the spot his own in the six matches that he has played so far. The fullback has a passing accuracy of 73% and has made 39 clearances and tackles 27 while representing Jamshedpur. Already a full-fledged India international, the 18-year-old has a bright future ahead of him.
Sumit Rathi (ATK FC)
Having represented ATK FC's second team in the Hero I-League 2nd division last season, Rathi was called up to the senior squad for the 2019-20 campaign. The 18-year-old was handed his Hero ISL debut as he came on for Anas Edathodika in the second half of ATK’s match against Odisha FC back in November and caught the attention of the Hero ISL fraternity. The youngster has since slowly eased into Antonio Lopez Habas’ matchday XIs, having started both of ATK’s last two outings, keeping Anas – a full-fledged India international - out of the team. Comfortable playing as a right back and a centre back, Rathi has the ability to operate with ease in both a three and four-man defence and can prove to be an asset for the future.
Besides the above six, Jamshedpur FC’s Amarjit Singh is another big name to look forward to. The former youth team captain, who led India in the U1-7 FIFA World Cup in 2017 may not have featured till now for Jamshedpur FC in the Hero ISL, but has already proven his worth in the national team colours last year, earning high praise from both head coach Igor Stimac and skipper Sunil Chhetri.