The growth of Indian football has been on the rise in recent times, this is due to the constant grassroots development that the country has seen. Young footballers are now breaking into the national squad. They have the talent and the skills to survive the competition and to thrive in the foreseeable future. Here are 7 such Indian footballers under the age of 25 whose performances have helped our Tricolour fly even higher.
7. Sandesh Jhingan
Sandesh Jhingan, 23, is a footballer who hails from Chandigarh. The reliable centre-back is contracted to Kerela Blasters in the Indian Super League. His performances in ISL helped him join I-League outfit DSK Shivajians on loan last year. The ball-playing defender has featured for Indian national football team 12 times, during which he has managed to score two goals. His aggressive defending skills in addition to the ability to go forward if and when needed have definitely earned him media plaudits in recent years. Jhingan used to play for St. Stephen’s Academy before being handed his professional debut by United Sikkim in 2011.
6. Pritam Kotal
Pritam Kotal, 23, is a footballer who hails from West Bengal. The dominating right-back is known not only for his ability to read the game but also for running down the flanks during counter attacks. He is contracted to I-League giants Mohun Bagan, however, this year he was also on loan to Indian Super League outfit Atletico de Kolkata. Additionally, he has also appeared for India 13 times. Kotal was part of the Chirag United youth side before making his professional debut for Pailan Arrows in 2011.
5. Jackichand Singh
Jackichand Singh, 24, is a footballer who hails from Manipur. The talismanic left-winger was phenomenal for Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League this season. He was recently signed by I-League elite East Bengal for the upcoming 2017 campaign. His raw speed, athleticism, and dribbling capabilities have seen him becoming a key player in the Indian national football team, having already played eight times in which he scored one goal. Singh was part of the Royal Wahingdoh youth setup before breaking into their senior squad in 2011.
4. Lalrindika Ralte
Lalrindika Ralte, 24, is a footballer who hails from Mizoram. The attacking midfielder is known for his defense-splitting passes and accurate crosses. He plays for East Bengal in the I-League but was also on loan to Indian Super League outfit Atletico de Kolkata this season. He can operate on either wing, as he is able to control the ball with both his feet equally, he is also known to be a deadly shooter. Ralte was part of the Churchill Brothers youth setup before breaking into their senior squad in 2009.
3. Jeje Lalpekhlua
Jeje Lalpekhlua, 25, is a footballer who hails from Mizoram. Jeje is already considered as a veteran of the Indian football national team, having sported the prestigious jersey 37 times while scoring 16 goals. The reputed striker is known to be lethal in the box, operating either as a poacher or a target man. He is presently contracted to Indian Super League team Chennaiyin but also went on loan to I-League giants Mohun Bagan this year. Lalpekhlua was part of the Pune FC youth side before making his professional debut in 2008 for their senior team.
2. Mohammed Rafique
Mohammed Rafique, 24, is a footballer who hails from Kolkata. The central midfielder is contracted to I-League giants East Bengal. He was on loan to Indian Super League outfit Kerela Blasters this year. Rafique impressed the Indian football fraternity in recent years that led to him being selected for the Indian national football team. He also made his debut this year, and in his three appearances so far, he has notched one goal. His is known for his vision and creativity in addition to his goal scoring prowess. Rafique had played for Tollygunge Agragami as a youth before making his professional debut for Prayag United in 2010.
1. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, 24, is a footballer who hails from Punjab, he is the currently the captain of the Indian national football team. He broke into the national setup back in 2011. In 2014, Gurpreet signed with Norwegian outfit Stabaek FC, and thus became the fifth Indian player after Mohammed Salim, Baichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri, and Subrata Pal to feature for a European club. His international experience has surely rubbed off on his teammates, the confident goalie is known to sport a calm demeanour in addition to orchestrating his defense and making flying saves. Sandhu was previously with St Stephen’s football academy before joining East Bengal’s academy in 2009 where he made his professional debut for the Red and Gold Brigade the same year.