Chennai City FC are gradually laying down their marker in the I-League with each passing game. The Chennai-based outfit have taken the league by storm after finishing a lowly eighth in the previous season. Runaway leaders in the league with five victories and a draw from their six matches, Akbar Nawaz’s men have already established a seven-point lead over their nearest rivals albeit with a game more.
While the foreign contingent including Pedro Manzi, Nestor Gordilla and Sandro Rodrigues have played a huge part in the side’s success so far this season, the domestic players too are catching the eye with some notable performances.
In their short existence so far, the I-League outfit has already become the bedrock for many talented Indian youngsters to strut their wares. In their maiden season in the I-League in 2017-18, it was Michael Soosairaj and Sinivasan Pandiyan who stood out despite the club’s dismal campaign.
Soosairaj was one of the most impressive players in the league last season with the 24-year-old’s displays enough to convince ISL outfit Jamshedpur FC to shell out big money for his signature this summer. The attacker has taken to the new league’s surroundings like a fish to water and has already established himself as a vital cog in Cesar Ferrando’s setup at Jamshedpur.
Having spent three years with Arrows FC in the Chennai Football Association (CFA) Senior Division league, Soosairaj had made the switch to Chennai City in 2016. His development has come on leaps and bounds since then.
Similarly, young Pandiyan impressed in midfield for Chennai City last season before his displays earned him a three-year deal with defending ISL champions Chennaiyin FC.
The 22-year-old from Thanjavur too honed his skills in the CFA Senior Division before making the jump to the I-League with Chennai City last year. Pandiyan flourished in a midfield role and was a constant starter for the side in their I-League campaign before making the jump to their cross-town neighbours.
Then there was Nandhakumar Sekar whose six appearances in the league saw Delhi Dynamos purchase him on loan initially before making the deal permanent. The young winger made an instant impact at the ISL club and had established himself as a core member of the squad by the time Delhi's league campaign ended last season.
Another domestic player who impressed for the club in the 2017-18 season was Edwin Sydney Vanspaul, who has been at the club since their CFA Senior Division days. The 26-year-old has been growing in stature at the club and has transformed himself as a fine right-back this season in Nawaz's system.
If these three players made their mark last season, it is now the likes of Jesuraj, Pravitto Raju, Ameerudeen Mohaideen and Ajith Kamraj who have stepped up this time.
Jesuraj has been a joy to watch on the flank for Chennai City with the 22-year putting in an excellent shift in the side’s impressive 2-1 win over East Bengal at Kolkata. He also bagged a goal in the win over Indian Arrows and is looking like the next big thing to come out of Chennai City’s assembly line of talented young domestic players.
Raju, Mohaideen and Kamraj were roped in by the club ahead of the season’s start after their notable displays in the CFA Senior Division and have wasted no time in finding their feet in the I-League. Raju has already scored a goal while Kamraj has been tidy in the full-back role. Mohaideen gave glimpses of his prowess in Chennai City’s 2-1 win over Aizawl
With these names, Chennai City’s future already looks to be bright. It is always pleasing to see clubs focusing on domestic talent and Chennai need to be lauded for their earnest effort in pomoting young players. If they keep giving a platform for future India stars to rise, nobody will be complaining.