Soosairaj rising: The making of Hero ISL’s newest superstar

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The rise of new stars is, perhaps, the biggest romanticism involved with football. The Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) is no different, and the five iterations of the league since 2014 have witnessed multiple unknown talents come to the fore in spectacular fashion. But none of them has been quite as impactful as Jamshedpur FC’s Michael Soosairaj . His meteoric rise to stardom has been one of the highlights of the ongoing season.

The 24-year-old has lit up the league this season, scoring three goals for Jamshedpur in 10 matches. The youngster is currently the joint top scorer for his club this season, alongside Sergio Cidoncha. His impressive goal scoring ability is, however, just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to analysing his rise to stardom. The winger’s ability to run at defenders with the ball at pace, in addition to his technical soundness, has terrorised opposition defences whilst making him a fan favourite because of his direct style.

The transition

Soosai, as he is fondly known to the fans and in the dressing room, came into the season with big expectations, having impressed for Chennai City FC in Hero I-League 2017-18. But the youngster exceeded his billings in remarkable fashion at Jamshedpur and it took him little time to establish himself as the standout player for his team

Speaking about his transition, Soosai said, “When I decided to move to Jamshedpur, I challenged myself to move out of my comfort zone. At first, it was very difficult. But slowly, with time, things started to move in a positive direction. Thanks to the management and my coaches. I have played in a different role under the coach which I am enjoying a lot. I have become more confident as a player and also my ability to take on players have improved a lot. That is one of my key strengths.”

The grand company

The move to Jamshedpur allowed Soosai the opportunity to share the dressing room and the pitch with international stars like Tim Cahill, Sergio Cidoncha and Tiri. According to Soosai, the proximity to such quality players have been a huge catalyst towards his astonishing progress this season. “They have been massively supportive towards me on and off the pitch. We speak a lot about the game with each other,” the young winger revealed.

Soosai is special: Cahill

The admiration, however, isn’t just one-sided from Soosai’s end. Australian legend Tim Cahill, who has watched the youngster closely for over three months now heaped praise on his young colleague and said, “He is an immensely talented boy. Someone I see playing in the national team. He is humble and a fine gentleman off the pitch. I really like him and easily one of the best talents in India along with Farukh (Choudhary) and Jerry (Mawhmingthanga).”

High praise from the gaffer

No one has followed Soosairaj’s development over the course of the season more closely than Jamshedpur head coach Cesar Ferrando. The Spaniard’s ever-growing faith in Soosai’s ability has been evident from his team selection this campaign. Speaking about his pupil’s progress since the pre season, Ferrando said, “It has been a massive difference. His technical ability has improved immensely. Looking at him at first I knew this boy was talented and it’s showing on the pitch now. His decision-making skills when on the ball and his ability to score have been the highlights for me.”

The road ahead

Jamshedpur is very much in the race for the top four and Soosairaj will be a vital piece of the puzzle for the Miners going into the business end of the league stages once the Hero ISL resumes after the winter break.

Soosai’s stellar performances this season have also prompted experts and fans alike to call for his inclusion in the Indian national team and head coach Stephen Constantine’s decision not to include him in the Blue Tigers’ squad for the AFC Asian Cup 2019 in UAE came as a big surprise to many. However, if he continues to perform at a similar level, it maybe only a matter of time before the boy from Chennai dons the blue stripes.

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