Hundreds of moments. Hundreds of goals. Hundreds of players. One winner. One AIFF Player Of The Year.
The AIFF Player Of The Year is one of the most coveted piece of trophies, and every player wants to get his hands on it. Its beauty and legacy transcends all other feelings in Indian Football. Several legendary hands have cusped the coveted trophy, with big names like I.M. Vijayan, Sunil Chhetri and Bhaichung Bhutia being past winners.
Introduced in 1992, The AIFF Player Of The Year has been awarded 26 times, with the award not being presented in 1998 and 1999. Sunil Chhetri has been adjudged as the Player Of The Year on 6 different occasions, with I.M. Vijayan far away though seconding him with 3 to his name.
The last year hasn’t been a fruitful one for the Indian National Team, with a handful of good performances failing to paper over the flurry of defeats. The World Cup Qualifiers brought back painful memories as India didn’t manage to win a single match.
However, there were some encouraging and fascinating performances by some players in these matches, followed by good display in the Indian Super League as well. We present to you 5 such players, who could very well be contenders to win the AIFF Player Of The Year award.
#5 Rowllin Borges
The inclusion of Rowllin Borges in this list might raise some brows, but those are uncalled for. Borges has managed to turn doubters into believers in the span of one season, and it might be safe to say that he is one of the most underappreciated players in the country right now.
His role as a defensive-midfielder for Mumbai City FC reaped fruits for him individually, as he stamped his authority in the league convincingly. We covered him in our series of best Indian players of the season too, here. His vision, aggression and solidity in the middle left fans purring in delight. His stats won’t show you the whole picture, but maybe this will– Borges’s ISL season rating was the third-best among Indians, with Chhetri and Sandhu ahead of him.
The lack of minutes Borges accumulated under Stimac comes across as a bloat on this magnificent piece of work, as he got only 261 minutes in 10 National team matches, accounting to only 29% of the total available minutes. The odds of Borges being adjudged the Player Of The Year are very less, but these might probably be strides towards that ultimate destination.
#4 Anirudh Thapa
Anirudh Thapa has been a sensation, earning praises from all his coaches and fans. He played in 5 matches for the National Team since Chhetri was awarded the 2018-19 AIFF Player Of The Year.
His performance for India was average, but he did exceedingly well in the domestic season. His G+A of 7 for Chennaiyin FC this season helped the team to reach the final. He played in 20 matches, playing on the pitch for an average of 88 minutes every game. He was instrumental in Chennaiyin’s splendid run to the final under Owen Coyle and the gaffer didn’t hold back any praises for the youngster.
Although Thapa would not probably win the award, he’s getting there, slowly. The future superstar is making a mark in the Indian Football circuit, ready to take everyone by storm.
#3 Gurpreet Singh Sandhu
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, though a bit inconsistent, has been a mainstay in the National Team since a long time. Sandhu’s contribution had also been recognized by the Government Of India in 2019 when he was conferred with the Arjuna Award, becoming the 26th Indian footballer to receive the prestigious award.
Though he did let in quite a few goals in the qualifiers, his cleansheet against Qatar helped India script a historic night in Doha. It was probably Sandhu’s best ever performance till date, and he received a lot of praises for the same.
He extended his superb performance in the Indian Super League as well, where he had 11 cleansheets in 19 matches. He also won the Golden Glove this season.
Sandhu has become an important part of the National Team, and is very well in the run to wear the captain’s armband in the future. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him win the Player Of The Year in the near future.