Chennaiyin FC, as always, have a strong core of emerging young prospects. They have been looking for a young defender who could eventually become a key first-team player in future and it looks like they finally got someone in Bikash Yumnam.

Yumnam, who hails from the Lilong Chajing town in Manipur, has been a regular figure in the Indian youth teams. The defender has represented the nation at the U-16, U-19, and U-20 levels.

The central defender has made good progress in a very short space of time but is only at the beginning of his career. There are plenty of battles to be fought but since he has already shown that he will confront every challenge, there is no uncertainty that he will go far off from here.

The 19-year-old began his footballing career with Minerva Academy before joining RoundGlass Punjab FC in 2019. After spending half of the 2019-20 season on loan at Indian Arrows, Yumnam returned to his parents where he had his first breakthrough season.

In January 2023, the defender took the next step of his journey as he joined Hero Indian Super League (ISL) side Chennaiyin FC from the Punjab-based side on a multi-year contract.

While speaking to the Athletic, Yumnam reveals his motivation for joining the Marina Machans.

“It was a long process,” Yumnam said to The Athletic.

“I got an offer from Chennaiyin FC and spoke to my agent and family. Everyone wants to play in the Hero ISL, learn and get more experience. I’m really excited and happy about my new journey. It’s a challenge for me because the ISL is the top league in India,” the defender added further.

Yumnam’s decision to leave RoundGlass Punjab FC was tough but necessary, according to the defender who dreams of representing his nation at the football's greatest showpiece event.

“It was a little bit sad (to leave RoundGlass Punjab FC), but this is the move I had to do,” said Yumnam.

Chennaiyin FC head coach Thomas Brdaric has always expressed his intention to focus on youth development in his new role at the club. The young prospect heaped praise on the manager and revealed that the German tactician has always demanded more hunger.

“(Thomas Brdaric) has really been helping me. The day I met him he said, ‘I will always be there (for you)’. He encourages us and is demanding. He likes us to give 100 percent in every practice but also wants us to enjoy it,” he opined.

The Marina Machans, under the tutelage of new head coach Brdaric, were unable to make the top four cut for a third consecutive season, finishing eighth in the league standings this season. Despite the lack of gametime, the defender is confident of his future and is enjoying time at his new club and working under Brdaric.  

“It’s really helping me to develop my performance. I’m still learning and young, so I’ve made lots of mistakes and he will always correct me,” Yumnam said.

Yumnam, who is effectively the third-choice central defender, is hungry for more opportunities to come. The defender had had to wait patiently for a first-team chance until April in the recently concluded Hero Super Cup when he came off the bench to replace Fallou Diagne against NorthEast United FC.

The Manipur-born defender made his second appearance as a substitute in the final group stage game against Mumbai City FC when he replaced injured Vafa Hakhamaneshi in the opening half of the game.

Yumnam has insisted on giving his best performance every time he steps on the pitch.

“I strive to get into the team every single day. It depends on the management, so I will do my best and let’s see,” explained Yumnam.