Kerala Blasters FC’s Ruivah Hormipam was one of the finds of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) season 2021-22 as he became an integral part of his team’s campaign that almost ended in success.

The 21-year-old central defender from Manipur joined the club at the start of the season and slowly convinced head coach Ivan Vukomanovic to grant him a place in his starting XI.

Kerala Blasters FC kept eight clean sheets this season, the most by any team and Hormipam was an integral part of the defensive effort.

The youngster made it look easy on the pitch, but revealed that the transition from Hero I-League to the Hero ISL was not easy.

"In ISL, we have players from all different leagues around the world and they are fighting for the spot in the squad. So it becomes very difficult. Tactically, the team is advanced and so are the opponents,” Hormipam told The Bridge in an exclusive interview.

“There is a lot of planning as to how we play. But I feel the major difference remains about competition in the squad. In Indian Arrows (Hero I-League team), we were of the same age and possessed the same amount of experience. But at Kerala Blasters FC, I have to compete with the big boys and I guess the stakes are higher," he added.

Read: Guardian angels: Top five defenders from Hero ISL 2021-22 season

Hormipam formed a solid partnership with Marko Leskovic and the two were key to the way Kerala Blasters FC played. Hormipam thanked his more experienced defensive partner for making things simpler for him.

"I feel Lesko is a very good player. More than anything he is the one who has adapted to my playing style and always covers and protects me. He is the real star of the defence along with Khabra sir,” Hormipam said.

“We have got clean sheets and that gave us a lot of confidence. He is a high-quality player and I'm fortunate to have him as a partner at the back with me,” he added.

Hormipam is currently with the Indian national team that are touring Bahrain for two international friendlies. The Manipuri defender has been called up to the senior side and wants to make his country proud.

"Yes, a dream come true for me and my family. It feels good, honoured, and excited. I want to play for India and make every Indian proud,” he said.

Still just 21, the future is bright for Hormipam who has been acknowledged even by opposition coaches in the Hero ISL.

Hyderabad FC head coach Manuel Marquez called him one of the best Indian defenders in the Hero ISL and believes he could become the very best in years to come.

After a superb first season in Hero ISL, the challenge for Hormipam would be to repeat it or even improve on it. Given that the spotlight will be on him in the coming season, the challenge will be even bigger but Hormipam has shown that challenges don’t faze him. In fact, it gets the best out of him.