Youngsters who made a splash in Hero ISL 2018-19
Amongst all the glitz and the glamour of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19, perhaps the biggest takeaway from another season of breathtaking football was the emergence of a number of talented youngsters. Despite their tender age, the young turks proved their mettle on the biggest stage, coming up with a series of fine performances for their respective clubs. Here, we take a look back on some of the best young performers over the course of the campaign.
1. Sahal Abdul Samad – Kerala Blasters FC
One of the biggest revelations of this season was Kerala Blasters FC's Sahal Abdul Samad. The 22-year-old midfielder impressed everyone with his composure on the ball at the centre of the pitch and his decision-making seemed well beyond his age. Sahal’s ability to dictate play and spark creativity into a side made him stand out in a relatively uninspiring Kerala outfit. In essence, Sahal is a complete midfielder, blessed with pace, dribbling ability and exquisite ball control. The youngster can also pick out a pass, making him the perfect player to link up play for his team. His performances earned him the ISL Emerging Player of the Season Award and eventually, a spot in the India U-23 team. Given his inherent talent, Sahal will only go from strength to strength in the next few years.
2. Lallianzuala Chhangte – Delhi Dynamos FC
While Delhi might not have had the most productive season, Lallianzuala Chhangte stood out for his consistency and quality throughout. The 21-year-old, beyond the shadow of a doubt, was Delhi’s best player, given his explosive work down the left wing. The winger featured in 18 matches over the campaign, scoring five goals and notching up an assist – his best return so far. With his explosive pace, the ability to run at players and the recently-acquired goal scoring ability, the Mizoram-born youngster is definitely one of the most exciting young talents in the country and is only expected to get better.
3. Udanta Singh – Bengaluru FC
The Bengaluru FC winger’s enormous talent is no secret to Indian football fans. The speedstar has exhibited sparks of his brilliance in previous seasons for the Blues, but this season, took his game to the next level. The 22-year-old looked a much more finished product this campaign, adding goals and assists to complement his dazzling performances on the pitch. Udanta ended the season with 5 goals and 3 assists – his best returns for any single season so far. Nicknamed Flash, for his lightening speed, is already a regular in the India national team and if he continues to develop at this rate, it’s only a matter of time before he establishes himself as the biggest star in the country.
4. Lalthathanga Khawlhring – NorthEast United FC
Playing his debut Hero ISL season with NorthEast United FC, Lalthathanga Khawlhring took a little time to settle down but by the time the season ended, had firmly established himself as the find of the season. Playing alongside Federico Gallego and Jose Leudo, Khawlhring was part of a formidable Highlnaders’ midfield. Repaying the faith that head coach Eelco Schattorie had put on him, the 21-year-old played a total of 20 matches, completing an impressive 606 passes and notching up an assist. Khawlhring's best trait, however, is his tenacity both on and off the ball. Coupled with his relentless running ability, he can be a constant nuisance for the opposition on both halfs of the pitch.
5. Mohammad Nawaz – FC Goa
Sergio Lobera raised eyeballs at the start of the campaign when he decided to opt for a 19-year-old Mohammad Nawaz as his first-choice goalkeeper. With little experience on his side, Nawaz’s selection into the starting eleven left a few Goa fans worried. However, the youngster emphatically proved his doubters wrong, producing a string of fine performances. Nawaz had an impressive four clean sheets and 35 saves in 13 appearances, and had it not been for injury, would have undoubtedly raked up even more impressive numbers.
6. Nishu Kumar – Bengaluru FC
An integral part of Bengaluru’s title-winning team, Nishu Kumar proved his maturity over the course of the season. The left-back drastically improved his defensive capabilities at the back alongside Albert Serran and Juanan, while also carrying plenty of attacking threat while bombing down the flank. The youngster’s most special moment of the season came early on when he scored a stunning volley against Jamshepdur FC. Looking at his performances this time around, Nishu Kumar has firmly established himself as a regular in the Blues’ line-up.