Qualifying for the senior FIFA World Cup and getting back to the Olympics. Indian football has set some goals for its future – to be a top 10 teams in Asia. This is undoubtedly a tough task, and it will certainly take a long time to achieve. Sunil Chetri, Sandesh Jhingan and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu laid a solid platform for this goal, and the baton was inevitably passed to the next generation.

With a young national team and many talented footballers, the future of Indian football looks bright. Looking ahead, here are some future stars who could play a key role in Indian football’s journey to its promised land.

1.Amarjit Singh Kiyam

The captain of India’s 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup team. He is one of the best Indian footballers of this generation. Without a doubt, he is a future of Indian football and a potential captain.

Amarjit won honours for AIFF’s developmental Indian Arrows side in the I-League, transitioned to the ISL, impressing for Jamshedpur FC in the 2019-20 campaign.

Amajit has also been a regular for Igor Stimac’s national team when he is fit since his Indian debut in the historic King’s Cup in Thailand in June 2019. And in the past few years has developed into a top box-to-box player. Amarjit is known for his tough tackles and making clever runs into the opposition box to score. But what sets him apart is his leadership and ability to set an example on the pitch.

“Amarjit’s energy is passed on to each of us. He is the standard for everyone,” Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri said just months after Amarjit Kiyam broke into the national side.

2.Jeakson Singh

Amarjit’s cousin Jeakson Singh. He made headlines at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup after scoring the Indian team’s only goal of the campaign in the group stage against Colombia. He is the only Indian goal scorer in a major FIFA tournament.

The young central midfielder broke free after stepping into the ISL stage with Kerala Blasters in 2019 and became a mainstay in head coach Eelco Schattorie’s side. In ISL 2021-22, Jeakson Singh was instrumental in guiding Kerala Blasters to the final. Jeakson’s performances even left Bartholomew Ogbeche, his former Blasters teammate, mighty impressed.

3.Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem

A member of the Indian contingent for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, is one of India’s top goalkeeping prospects.

Dheeraj has continued his development playing for ISL sides Kerala Blasters, ATK (now ATK Mohun Bagan) and FC Goa. The Manipuri custodian was particularly impressive while playing for FC Goa in the AFC Champions League (ACL) 2021-22. The Gaurs, the first-ever Indian team at the ACL, couldn’t make it past the group stages but young Dheeraj was sensational nevertheless, which earned him a place in the AFC Champions League 2021-22 Team of the Season. He will, forever, remain the first Indian to earn the honour. It may still take some time for Dheeraj to break into the senior Indian team. But Dheeraj is in his early 20s –the chance is certainly on his side.

4.Mohammad Nawaz

The snub of India at the 2017 Championship sparked the rise of Mohammad Nawaz. Determined to do better after missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at the 2017 U-17 World Cup, the young goalkeeper has progressed rapidly, becoming the first-choice keeper for several ISL teams. Despite his short stature, Nawaz has great reflexes that makes him an incredible shot-stopper. Nawaz is also good with his feet, which makes him ideal for a possession-based style of football. Still in his early 20s, Nawaz has a bright future of him.

Besides the four, Naorem Roshan Singh (winner of ISL Emerging Player in 2021-22), Suresh Singh Wangjam, Rahul KP, Narender Gahlot and Vikram Pratap Singh are some of the other young Indian footballers to keep an eye on.

A new generation of football players to watch out for