As part of our NxGn India series, Goal takes a closer look at the most promising young talents in the country. Having revealed the ten potential stars who have found a place in this year's list, it's time for an in-depth peek at some of the others who have a seriously bright future ahead of them.
This time around, we are profiling an upcoming star in Lalchhanhima Sailo who has been impressing in midfield for the various India junior teams as well as the Indian Arrows to an extent.
At just 17, Sailo has had vast experience in the India U16 side, having been a vital part of the team for the better part of the last couple of years. He also earned himself a look into the Indian Arrows first team in the recently concluded season where he made two appearances including a start.
"It was a good experience to train with this lot of players. The coach (Shanmugam Venkatesh) always tried to keep us motivated and helped us improve ourselves. The atmosphere in training was also really competitive and that helped us all improve," Sailo told Goal.
Sailo, who likes to operate as a deep-lying midfield playmaker, was part of the India U16 side that reached the quarter-finals of the 2018 AFC U16 Championship. The nimble-footed midfielder was just 15 back then and was heavily involved in the India Colts' run to the tournament.
The Luka Modric-fan hails from Mizoram - a state that has produced quite a few footballers who have grabbed limelight on the national stage like Jeje Lalpekhlua, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Lalrindika Ralte and Shylo Malsawmtluanga to name a few.
Sailo does not come from an affluent background but his passion for the game stems from his father who works in the Mizoram Police Department and has played football for State Police team.
An Indian footballer who Sailo has grown up admiring is Lalrindika Ralte who was the captain of East Bengal last season- one of India's most prestigious clubs. Watching his exploits as a child is something that inpsired Sailo to pursue a career in football.
"My parents are my biggest inspiration. They have been very supportive of me during my journey as a professional footballer. Also, I’ve grown up watching Lalrindika Ralte. I play in the same position as him. Whenever I get the opportunity, I try and watch his matches, be it on television, or from the stands."
Having grown up playing the game in Aizawl, Sailo honed his skills after moving from the North-East of the country to the North-West. He joined the famed Chandigarh Football Academy (CFA) at a very early age where he learnt the tricks of the trade before joining the youth ranks of I-League side Punjab FC (then Minerva Punjab).
He won the Nike Premier Cup with Minerva Punjab's U15 side which turned out to be a breakthrough. He caught the attention of the national team scouts present at the tournament and they immediately drafted him into the India U16 set up.
"I started playing football from the age of seven in my hometown Aizawl. I then moved to Chandigarh, with CFA, and then to Minerva, where I was a part of the U-15 team that won the Nike Premier Cup in Mumbai. That was when I got scouted by the national team and I soon joined the U-16 side for the AFC U-16 Championship."
He has not looked back since, even debuting for the India U19 side at the tender age of 16.
The youngster is just starting out in senior football, however. He has had a taste of top-level football against physically and mentally more experienced players. Another season at Indian Arrows where he can get regular gametime will only do him a world of good. The maturity in his words is reassuring and is a sign of a level and calm head.
"It can be challenging at times, but I am still young and developing. Playing against physically stronger opponents only helps me improve my game over time.
"I try to do different things. For example, when I have the ball, I look for my teammates who may be in a better position and play a quick pass. So I have been working a lot on my passing and movement. When I don’t have the ball, I try to make my movements so that I can run into space and give my teammates the option to pass me the ball."
Clearly, Sailo is learning and if he puts his head down and keep doing that, we might have a serious talent on our hands.