Graduates set for new challenge ahead of upcoming ISL season

NEW DELHI: The upcoming edition of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) is set to feature a number of graduates from the latest batch of the All India Football Federation (AIFF)’s developmental side Indian Arrows and with the competition set to kick off in Goa on November 20, the young guns are hard at work as they prepare to take their Hero ISL bows.

Among them is the rapidly-rising forward Vikram Partap Singh, who has 27 appearances for the Indian Arrows in the Hero I-League to his name along with five goals, four of which came in the 2019-20 season.

Having signed for Mumbai City FC in the Hero ISL, the 18-year-old feels that the goals his performances for the Arrows last season have given him “belief in his abilities” ahead of the daunting challenge ahead.

(Photo: Mumbai City FC)

Vikram, who also led the Indian side to the last eight of the AFC U-16 Championship 2018, said: “The preparation for the new season is going on full swing. I do feel a little pressure but at the same time, there is a lot of excitement as well. Scoring goals and getting good game time with the Indian Arrows last season has given me great belief in my abilities. I understand the Hero ISL is an entirely different platform but I want to continue scoring more and more in the upcoming campaign.”

A versatile attacker with a high work-rate, Vikram stated that the Arrows playing a possession-based style has put him in a comfortable position with his new club as well, with head coach Sergio Lobera employing the “same philosophy” at the Islanders.

“In the previous season, our head coach Venky sir (Venkatesh Shanmugam) laid emphasis on keeping the ball on the ground and playing possession football. At my new club, the same philosophy is followed and hence, the transition has been smooth in that respect as well,” Vikram added.

Another young talent to watch out for will be 18-year-old defender Akash Mishra, who played every minute of the Arrows’ campaign in 2019-20 and has a total of 23 appearances to his name over two seasons. Capable of playing at left-back and at central defence, the youngster is set to turn out for Hyderabad FC in the Hero ISL this season and said that the “invaluable” game-time with the Arrows has helped him to “adapt quickly.”

(Photo: Hyderabad FC Media)

“It’s exciting to be at my new club. I am motivated to give my best. We have many high-quality experienced players — both Indian and foreign — in the squad and even though it is my first season in the Hero ISL, I am sure that I will be able to adapt quickly thanks to the invaluable game time I got with the Indian Arrows last season. If I can continue from where I left off, I am confident that I can acclimatize to the new challenge,” Akash stated.

With players reporting for their teams after spending months at home due to the COVID-19 lockdown, regaining fitness was a big challenge ahead of them and according to Akash, the “quality training” his former Arrows mates underwent puts them in an advantageous position.

“We are working hard to regain match fitness. The quality and competitive training we had last season with Arrows has helped a lot during this pre-season so far. The intensity we had in training and during matches then was very high and it is an advantage for all of us from that group,” he maintained.

Also looking to make a mark with the Hyderabadi side will be forward Rohit Danu, who has appeared 21 times for the Arrows in the Hero I-League over two seasons and holds the distinction of being the youngest goal-scorer in the league’s history at 16 years, five months and 27 days.

(Photo: Hyderabad FC Media)

“To create history at such a young age was a special achievement but now, I want to build on it and use it as a motivation to help my team and keep scoring goals. I am determined to give my best in the coming campaign and every time I step on to the pitch, I want to score, provide assists and win matches for my team,” the 18-year-old quipped.

He caught the eye of fans across all over the country with his performances in the 2018-19 campaign, scoring four goals as the Arrows finished eighth on the points table with six wins. The next season saw him make a return from injury as he played seven times under coach Venkatesh and ahead of his debut Hero ISL season, he declared that he is “back into rhythm” and is applying the “knowledge” he obtained from his time with the Arrows.

“Training is going very well now and we are all coming back into our rhythms. All that was taught to us has certainly made things easier. The intensity and quality of training was incredible. I can understand and see the benefits for myself now very clearly.”

Credits: AIFF Media

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Also Read: Edu Bedia named FC Goa captain, Lenny to be vice captain

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