Shillong, Mar 22: Shillong Lajong FC captain Samuel Lalmuanpuia has been named Best Emerging Player by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for the I-League 2017-18 season. This was announced by the AIFF today on the body’s website.
The 19-year-old captained the Lajong team to sixth place in the points table, scored three goals, provided four assists and played in 17 matches. He missed the fifth match of SLFC’s campaign due to injury and then took some time to get back to full fitness, but played the full 90 minutes in each of the last six fixtures for a total of nearly 1,400 minutes on the pitch over the entire season.
Dubbed the “best set-piece player in India” by Mohun Bagan coach Shankarlal Chakraborty, Lalmuanpuia scored once via a free-kick this season (vs East Bengal on 9th December) and twice from the penalty spot (vs Mohun Bagan on 14th December and East Bengal on 5th March) as well as providing four assists to his team mates.
His last goal of the season, which saw Lajong draw 2-2 with East Bengal at home earlier this month, was his seventh goal for the club in the I-League, putting him clear in fifth place. Lalmuanpuia previously shared fifth place with Fabio Pena and Sushil Kumar Singh, who both scored six goals each. This season the No. 9 also became the 10th Lajong player to have scored at least five I-League goals for SLFC.
Manipur’s NEROCA have plenty to celebrate
Meanwhile, after finishing second in the table – the best finish by any North East team in their maiden I-League season – NEROCA were also named Best Match Organiser and took home the Fairplay Award.
The club also picked up two individual awards – Varney K Kallon received the Jarnail Singh Award for Best Defender, while Gift Raikhan was bestowed with the Syed Abdul Rahim Award for Best Coach.
Among the other gongs, Mohun Bagan’s Shilton Paul was named Best Goalkeeper, while striker Aser Dipanda claimed the Golden Boot for the second consecutive season after winning it last year with Lajong. Chennai City FC’s Michael Soosairaj was dubbed Best Midfielder, while Chencho Gyeltshen of champions Minerva Punjab was adjudged Best Forward.
(TSR file photo)