The foreign imports are the heart and soul of every side but it is the Indian players in the Indian Super League (ISL) who are the torch bearers of their respective sides. They endear themselves to the fans, are major crowd-pullers. ISL 2015 had a bigger number of Indian talents who shone on the big stage, unfazed by the arclights and playing alongside some the who’s who in the footballing world. Here are seven of them:
1. Sunil Chettri:
The Indian skipper, playing in his first tournament was a smash-hit with the fans of Mumbai City FC. Sunil Chettri missed out on Mumbai’s first three games owing of international commitments but briefly, Mumbai did look like a force and it was because of Chettri’s goal-scoring spree. He became the first Indian to score a hat-trick and finished with seven goals. Chettri was highly influential in the front three, combining beautifully with the mercurial Sony Norde and target man Freddy Piquionne.
2. Rino Anto:
Another Bengaluru FC player who missed out on the first season, the 27-year-old’s presence was immense at the back. A vital cog of Antonio Lopez Habas’ three man defense, which he deployed for the better part of the group stages, Anto was solid in the box and formed an excellent partnership with Tiri, who took over a senior role.
3. TP Rehenesh:
The 22-year old goalkeeper had to fight for his place with elder statesman Gennaro Bracigliano in the early stages of the tournament. Results were not going NorthEast United’s way but stability in the goalkeeping department saw a change in fortunes on the pitch as well. The Highlanders soon started to win games and Rehenesh was in top form throughout. Brave during set-pieces and showing safe hands, the Kerala goalkeeper rose to become one of the key members of the side. India have a great prospect between the sticks for the future.
4. Jackichand Singh:
Coming into ISL 2015, the fleet-footed Manipuri winger was named as the I-League’s best player. FC Pune City signed some top international players in Tuncay and Adrian Mutu. The faith placed by manger David Platt on Jackiechand was reaped rich dividends for Pune in the early stages of the tournament, where Jacki was terrorizing defenders on the left flank. India has another bright prospect on their hands and Pune’s form tapering off during the final stages of the tournament coincided with Jacki suffering an injury and sitting out.
5. Anas Edathodika:
Delhi Dynamos’ stingy defensive record played a key role in the side progressing to the knockout stages. Playing alongside veteran John Arne Riise, the powerful Anas put in many a good shift for his side. Anas’ no-nonsense defending kept strikers at bay. Anas is the club captain of Pune FC in the I-League, the centre-back is good at organising his defense and scores the occasional goal too.
6. Thoi Singh:
The pocket-size dynamo of Chennaiyin FC was a treat to watch and was adept in attack and defense. Thoi’s selfless play, boundless energy and crossing helped the likes of Elano and Stiven Mendoza to show bite up front and set up goals. Even with Jeje coming back into the side, Thoi did not lose his place and was ever-reliable on the right flank, playing a crucial part in the build-up.
7. Mandar Rao Desai:
Another winger who makes it to the list, Mandar continued to show great progress after setting the tone with a good start last season. Mandar combined well with Leo Moura and Reinaldo up front. Though he did not contribute to the goals and assists charts, the local boy play role in the build-up for many of Goa’s goals.