1. Apuia Lalengmawia
The number 1 on this list has to be the Emerging Player of this year’s ISL, Apuia Lalengmawia. Gerard Nus turned a few heads when he named 20-year old Apuia, the youngest ever ISL captain against FC Goa. Well, now we know why. Apuia has had a career defining season with NEUFC this year. He has been one of the best Indian players of this season and is a major contributor to NEUFC’s run into the playoffs. Apuia has appeared each of the 22 matches for NEUFC this season. He has played a mammoth 1848 minutes this season, and has 1 goal, a belter against Kerala Blasters FC. Playing as a central midfielder, Apuia has 93 tackles (2nd amongst Indians), 46 interceptions (6th most in the league) and 811 passes (3rd amongst Indians).
More than the great numbers Apuia already has, it’s his calmness and maturity on the midfield that has stood out. An intelligent passer of the ball, the 20-year old Apuia has shown maturity beyond his age. He has complemented NEUFC attacks through incisive passing in between lines and also by spraying passes all around the field. One of his best abilities is ball carrying coupled with a skillful half turn. He has always managed to squeeze himself out from tight spaces and play a forward pass. A calming influence on the field, Apuia has certainly looked like the real deal this season. The whole of India would be hoping that this exciting youngster can stay grounded and project his career upwards in the coming years. There is no doubt that if he continues to work hard and remain fit, Apuia Lalengmawia will have the whole of India at his feet.
With ISL producing such talented crop of youngsters year on year, season after season, the future looks bright for Indian football. Other than these top 5 players, there were many young players that caught the eye this season. With the Indian squad age averaging just under 25, Igor Stimac himself has recognized the youngsters that have developed this season. These youngsters will be eyeing their debuts and looking to play for India in the coming years. Nevertheless, one thing’s for sure, Indian football fans have a lot to be excited about the future.