Kerala has long been a hotbed for young footballing talent, and Kerala Blasters FC have carried this legacy forward profoundly. Developing young Indian players has been a cornerstone of the Blasters’ sporting strategy. To achieve this, they have heavily focused on their youth academy, creating a smooth pathway to the senior squad for emerging talents.

In addition to developing and acquiring young players, they have also arranged special training facilities for these prodigies. For example, academy graduate Vibin Mohanan moved to the Greek first-division club OFI Crete for a one-month training stint ahead of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season. The previous season, twin brothers Mohammed Aimen and Mohammed Azhar joined the Polish club Rakow Czestochowa for a similar training stint. These experiences not only helped them grow as individuals but also eased their transition to the senior squad.

Also Read: Kerala Blasters FC's Azhar and Aimen make striking impression in debut season

Kerala Blasters FC have consistently given young players substantial playing time. During Ivan Vukomanovic’s three-year tenure with the Blasters, players like Rahul KP, Hormipam Ruivah, Jeakson Singh, and others enjoyed significant game time and have developed into key players for the team.

Although the Blasters faced challenges during an injury-plagued season, the progress of the young players remains a positive aspect.

With that, let's take a look at the young Indian players who made an impact for the Blasters this season.

Vibin Mohanan

The most experienced player on this list, Vibin Mohanan, made his ISL debut in a 4-0 defeat to Mumbai City FC during the 2022-23 season. Despite making only three appearances that season, his potential and talent did not go unnoticed.

Fast forward to the start of the 2023-24 season, the youth development program of Kerala Blasters bore fruit as Vibin received an invitation from Greek first-division club OFI Crete, offering him a remarkable opportunity to train and compete at the highest level.

“This move is an indication of our belief in Vibin and an indication that talent at Kerala Blasters will be encouraged and nurtured. Vibin had an encouraging first season and we want to do the best to deliver on promises we make to young players like Vibin that choose to trust us with their future,” said Kerala Blasters FC Sporting Director Karolis Skinkys during the move.

After completing his one-month training camp, a much-improved and technically astute player joined the Blasters squad in Kolkata for the Durand Cup. The 22-year-old made an instant impact in the tournament, providing three assists in two games despite the Blasters' group-stage exit.

Initially, the midfielder came on as a substitute in the opening two matches of the ISL but soon cemented his place in the starting XI with Jeakson Singh sidelined due to a shoulder injury. The energetic central midfielder continued to revamp the midfield, settling vigorously in the middle of the park.

Mohanan amassed 1,422 minutes across 19 matches, recording 40 passes per game with an accuracy of 85%. His debut ISL goal came in a 4-3 defeat to Mohun Bagan Super Giant at home.

His impressive performances in the heart of Blasters’ midfield have also earned him his first call-up to the India senior team.

Mohammed Aimen

Similar to Vibin, twin brothers Aimen and Azhar also came through the ranks of the Kerala Blasters Academy. Aimen featured in the 2023 Super Cup last season, and thanks to his impressive performance in the Durand Cup, he earned a promotion to the ISL squad.

Aimen continued to make a strong impression in the league since making his debut against Bengaluru FC in the opening game of the campaign. The 21-year-old delivered exciting displays throughout the season, effectively using both flanks. Clocking 1,134 minutes, Aimen featured in 21 out of the 23 matches Kerala Blasters played this season. He recorded 25 successful dribbles and created 17 chances for his team, the fourth-highest on the squad and the best among the Indian players.

Aimen, who also played as a striker during his academy days, was asked to play up front in the last two matches of the season and didn’t disappoint, scoring one goal and providing two assists during those matches. The talented winger is poised for a bright future with the Blasters in the upcoming seasons.

Sachin Suresh

Kerala Blasters FC let go of their Golden Glove-winning goalkeeper Prabhshukhan Singh Gill ahead of the season. Rather than seeking a direct replacement, they placed their trust in academy graduate Sachin Suresh.

The young goalkeeper quickly proved his worth with impressive performances since his debut in the ISL, winning over fans with crucial match-winning saves. Notably, his standout performance in the opening fixture against Bengaluru FC set the tone, and he continued to shine with notable saves in the next matches. He played a crucial role in victories over Odisha FC and East Bengal FC, denying Diego Mauricio and Cleiton Silva from the spot in back-to-back matches, making him the first goalkeeper to achieve this feat in the ISL.

With 33 saves and five clean sheets in their opening 15 matches, Sachin was neck and neck with seasoned goalkeepers like Amrinder Singh and Vishal Kaith in the Golden Glove race. However, a devastating injury during the game against Chennaiyin FC ruled him out for the remainder of the season, compounding the challenges for Kerala Blasters.

Mohammed Azhar

Similar to his brother, Azhar was also a part of the Super Cup squad last season but didn’t feature in any of the games. However, he didn’t let the opportunity pass when it came in the Durand Cup earlier in the 2023-24 season, and upon producing some significant gameplay, he was promoted to the ISL squad.

Although he didn’t accumulate as many minutes under his belt as his brother Aimen, Azhar did produce commendable performances whenever he was called upon. The 21-year-old made his debut in a 2-1 victory against Odisha FC at home and was handed his first start against Punjab FC in December, slotting alongside Mohanan in the central midfield position.

Operating primarily as a central midfielder, Azhar was also seen adapting himself to the left-back position in the absence of a regular left-back during the business end of the season.

The Lakshadweep-born player made 16 appearances in his breakthrough season, amassing a total of 782 minutes of game time.

Freddy Lallawmawma

Kerala Blasters FC acquired Freddy Lallawmawma from the I-League-winning squad of Punjab FC ahead of the season, where he played a crucial role in their promotion to the ISL.

The 21-year-old arrived at the Blasters with high expectations and made his debut against Bengaluru FC in the opening fixture, coming on as a substitute for Aimen. While initially serving as an impact substitute, he showcased his talent in a few more appearances before an unfortunate injury sidelined him midway through the season.

Upon his return from injury during the latter stages of the season, Lallawmawma played a pivotal role in midfield alongside Mohanan. Despite his season being curtailed by injury, he featured in 10 matches in his debut ISL season and is poised to make a significant impact for the side in the upcoming season.

The likes of Nihal Sudheesh and Saurav Mandal garnered substantial game time, while two more academy graduates, Aritra Das and Sukham Yoihenba Meitei, made their ISL debut this season.