What happened to the ATK prodigies?

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ATK FC – the most successful team in the Indian Super League history. In 2014, 2016 and 2019-20 , ATK have triumphed and lifted the trophy to assert their dominance. Right now, they are a force to reckon. But still, there are fingers being raised at them by Indian football fans, and the reason is a very valid one.

Allegations are that ATK are rusting down some of the future prospects of India by not giving them game time. It’s understandable that the agents always want their clients to play in the topmost league in Indian football so that they come into the limelight and get a chance to don the national team jersey but sometimes, they forget one obvious thing which is that in a matchday, maximum fourteen players can contribute. Some future talents, in search of money and with high hopes, have come to the club only to get benched.

ATK FC had registered twenty-eight players the previous season by having back-ups in every position, bringing in U-17 World Cup star  Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem from Kerala Blasters FC and also roping in 2018-19 I-league highest Indian goal scorer, Jobby Justin. Salam Ranjan Singh from Quess East Bengal FC and promising side-back Boris Singh Thangjam from Indian Arrows were also brought in for a hefty amount of money.

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Here are 5 players we feel were robbed of their potential by being benched almost every match.

#5. Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem

After having a great performance in the U-17 World Cup, he completed his stint with Indian Arrows and went to Scotland to try his luck with Motherwell FC, but failed to sign for them. He came back and signed for Kerala Blasters FC and under the guidance of David James played thirteen matches between the sticks and kept four clean-sheets.

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ATK signed him for the 2019-20 season and everyone predicted that he would get the chances ahead of Arindam Bhattacharya, but it turned out to be the opposite as Arindam, having an advantage of playing under Antonio Lopez Habas once before in FC Pune City (now Hyderabad FC), was chosen ahead of Dheeraj in the first few games but with an experienced campaigner like Arindam, it went was difficult for the young shot-stopper to get game-time. He finally got his debut match in red and white colors against Bengaluru FC in their last group stage match at Kanteerava Stadium but he failed to perform up to everyone’s expectations.

He is still a work in progress and needs minutes to fulfill his potential. 

#4. Komal Thatal

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The youngest player to play an Indian Super League match is just warming the bench nowadays having spent only six minutes on the pitch this season. The Sikkimese winger had shown glimpses of brilliance but struggled to establish himself in the Indian Super League scenario.

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After the U-17 World Cup, Komal refused to continue his stint in Indian Arrows where all his former teammates got a lot of game-time in the I-League. Only playing cameos off the bench and making a few starts won’t curate him as a player he is, and a temporary move to any I-League club would certainly aid his development. He has been overshadowed by Jayesh Rane, Michael Soosairaj, Jobby Justin to name a few. Thus a loan move away from ATK would help him for the years to come. 

#3. Boris Singh Thangjam

The twenty-year-old promising right-back from Manipur has already shown his ability to carry the ball at great speed and turn on a dime in the U-17 World Cup. He scored on his debut match against Chennai City FC and then afterwards, having made 31 appearances for Indian Arrows, he packed his bag to start his journey in Kolkata for ATK, to make a presence in Indian football.

He was being overshadowed by the likes of Pritam Kotal, Prabir Das, Salam Ranjan Singh, Sumit Rathi, and wasn’t even on the bench for ATK this season. He made only two appearances for ATK in the Durand Cup.

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After the announcement of the merger and the overwhelming performances of Pritam Kotal and Prabir Das this season, he should be doing only one thing– practice and return back home. In order to sharpen his talent, he needs to move out and perform in the I-League that would help him to shape his career going ahead.

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