TOI gives you a lowdown on all the players who are part of the Marina Machans’ squad:
Vishal Kaith (Rohru, Himachal Pradesh)
Vishal Kaith hails from Rohru, a small village situated in Himachal Pradesh. He went for volleyball trials where he decided to try his luck in football trials as well. He got picked in football trials because of his height and physique which is a desired quality in any goalkeeper. The passionate goalkeeper had once skipped tenth board exams to take part in the U-16 trials. However, the trial didn’t go as planned and he failed. But a few years later, he impressed the coaches during the U-19 selections and was picked in the AIFF Elite Academy.
The 25-year-old footballer’s biggest strength is his reflexes and heis often called a “sweeper keeper” as he comes out of the line to stop opposition attacks and clear the long balls.
Some of the popular examples of “sweeper keeper” are German goalkeeper Manuel Neur who popularised the art during 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Debjit Majumder (West Bengal)
Born in Hindmotor, West Bengal, Debjit Majumder is a 33-year-old Goalkeeper who plays for Chennaiyin FC. Majumder started his career with Uttarpara Netaji Brigade and later played for top Indian clubs like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. Majumder also has a vast experience of playing in the ISL which includes a title winning season with ATK in 2016 in which he played a crucial role for the club. Playing for Mohun Bagan, Majumder won two I-League titles along with one Federation Cup in 2016. Chennaiyin FC signed Majumder on a multi-year contract that will see him donning the colors of Marina Machans from the upcoming season.
Samik Mitra (West Bengal)
Born in West Bengal Samik Mitra is a 20-year-old goalkeeper who plays for Chennaiyin FC. After graduating from AIFF Elite Academy, he was signed for the Chennaiyin FC reserve side in 2017. He was among the six AIFF Elite Academy graduates which Chennaiyin FC signed in before the 2017-18 season. Mitra was the first-choice goalkeeper for Chennaiyin FC B side, as he went on to play 13 matches for them, including three matches in Asia’s oldest football tournament Durand Cup. In 2018 he was sent on loan to Indian Arrows in the I-League where he played till 2019-20 season before returning to Chennayin senior side. Mitra is yet to feature in a match for ChennaiyinFC in the ISL due to the abundance of goalkeeping talent that the club possesses but with the new head coach in charge, Mitra has an opportunity to impress with his skills and earn an ISL debut.
Devansh Dabas (Uttar Pradesh)
Devansh Dabas is a 20-year-old goalkeeper from Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh who plays for Chennaiyin FC. Devansh comes from a very humble background. With football culture in his village, Devansh began the game just for fun. It was his friend who motivated him to join his school so that he can play football at a better level. However, his parents didn’t have enough money to put him in that school but later they managed it and Devansh’s life changed thereafter. For Devansh, his mother and coach Mr Rohin Kumar are the biggest motivation and the reason behind his achievements in football. The coach never charged Devansh any money for training and kept his belief in the talented footballer. Devansh always had the fascination for rigorous physical activities like diving and jumping but he never aimed to be a goalkeeper, it was his coach who saw certain qualities in him and shifted his position to goalkeeper and it proved to be a successful one. Devansh played for some local clubs in district tournaments before joining Minerva Punjab FC with whom he won U-15 and U-18 youth leagues and also represented its senior team in the I-League followed by a stint for Lonestar Kashmir FC before getting picked by Chennaiyin FC. Chennaiyin FC signed Devansh for the 2021-22 season as a development player.
Slavko Damjanovic (Serbia)
Slavko Damjanovic is a Montenegrin defender who last played for Serbian top tier club TSC Backa Topola in 2020-21. Standing over 6 feet, the Serbian could also prove to be an attacking threat from set pieces while playing for Chennaiyin FC in the upcoming ISL season. He has played over 150 games in his nine-year long career. Slavko played a crucial role in Buducnost Podgorica’s fourth Montenegrin League title in 2019-20 and also featured in its Europa League qualifying matches the same year. The 28-year-old began his professional career with FK Spartak Subotica in Serbian League and went on to play in Hungary, Uzbekistan and South Africa. Slavko is a hard tackling defender who is not shy on the ball and has good passing accuracy.
Deepak Devrani (Delhi)
Born in New Delhi Deepak Devrani is Indian center back who plays for Chennaiyin FC. Deepak started playing football at the iconic Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi when he was 12. Devrani spent his youth career at East Bengal and made I-League debut with Pailan Arrows in the 2012-13 season. Devrani has been part of three I-League winning campaigns, the first one with Mohun Bagan in 2014-15, second with Minerva Punjab in 2017-18and most recently came in the 2020-21 season with Gokulam Kerala. Featured in 14 games, he was one of the key players for the Malabarians in their title-winning season. Devrani was part of the Pune City FC team in ISL 2014 but didn’t get the opportunity to play.
Salam Ranjan Singh (Manipur)
Salam Ranjan Singh is a 25-year-old player from Manipur who plays as a central defender for Chennaiyin FC. Salam was part of the Pune FC Youth Academy and won two back-to-back leagues with the side from Maharashtra. His exceptional performances didn’t go unnoticed as he was called up for the senior team in 2013-14 season as he featured in 18 games including appearances in the I-League and AFC Cup. Salam signed for Bengaluru FC and won I-League and Federation cup. In the ISL, Salam had a brief spell with Northeast United and then joined ATK in the 2019-20 season which they won. Salam has 11 appearances to his name for the senior team after making his debut in 2017.After spending last season with ATK Mohun Bagan Salam signed a two-year contract with the Marina Machans.
Edwin Sydney Vanspaul (Neyveli, Tamil Nadu)
Edwin was born in Neyveli, Tamil Nadu. His father was a hockey player who played the sport at a local level. Edwin’s inspiration was his brother who passed away at the age of 26 due to typhoid and that became a big motivation in Edwin’s life.
Edwin faced a lot of hardships during his childhood. Due to monetary issues, his mother would work abroad and earn a living for the family while he and his sister would eat only one meal throughout the day so that they could save some money.
Edwin’s family had a lot of debt to clear so when he started earning, he saved money and sent small amounts each month to help his mother. He used to live in a rented place and there was a time when he couldn’t even afford to pay rent. He had only one pair of shoes and his friend bought him a new pair of shoes by taking loan so that he wouldn’t miss his matches.
Edwin failed to clear his 12th exam and joined Loyola College, Chennai. When he was in Loyola College, he joined Indian Bank team in 2010 where his salary was Rs 5000 out of which he would send Rs 3000 home and would survive with a meager sum of 2000/-
He was part of the I-league with Chennai City FC before making ISL debut with Chennaiyin FC. Edwin was an important part of Owen Coyle’s Chennaiyin FC which reached ISL final in 2019-20 as he shifted Edwin from right back to his preferred position defensive midfield and he went on to play 20 out of 21 games for his team.
Balaji Ganesan (Tamil Nadu)
Balaji Ganesan is the 19-year-old defender from Tamil Nadu who plays for Chennaiyin FC. Ganesan was scouted by Chennaiyin FC in 2015 as part of their grassroot program. He was signed in 2019 by Chennaiyin FC to be a part of their team as a development player. Ganesan’s versatility is his biggest strength as he can operate anywhere in the left flank.
Davinder Singh (Punjab)
Davinder Singh is an Indian footballer who plays as a right back for Chennaiyin FC. Born in Patiala, Punjab, Davinder started his career at Dalbir Football Academy and played for their U-16 team before joining Punjab University team where he played from 2013-17. The hard tackling defender has an unprecedented feat to his name as he is among the very few players who got selected for the senior football team directly from the University level. Minerva Punjab has also played an important role in his journey by providing him the opportunity to train with them. Davinder is physically very strong and a hard tackling defender which is an asset for any team. Davinder made his debut for Mumbai City FC in the 2017-18 season against Kerala Blasters and went on to play nine matches for the Islanders. Ahead of the 2018-19 season Davinder suffered a knee injury which kept him out of action for three seasons. He is making a comeback with Chennaiyin FC in ISL and will be hoping to put in some stellar performances to announce his return in the Indian football circuit.
Reagan Singh (Manipur)
Reagan Singh is a right-footed defender who mainly plays as a Right Back for Chennaiyin FC. Reagan spent five seasons with Northeast United FC before joining Marina Machans in the 2020-21 season. Reagan played 69 matches for Northeast United FC, helping them qualify for their first ever ISL semi-final in 2018-19.
Reagan is known for his composure in defence and blistering runs while going forward, he proved to be a reliable outlet for CFC in the last season where he kept six clean sheets in his 18 games and recorded one assist while coming close to scoring on multiple occasions. Reagan was one of the first names on the team sheet under coach Csaba Lazlo in the 2020-21 season, playing 18 matches for the club that season. Reagan extended his contract with Marina Machans with a multi-year contract.
Jerry Lalrinzuala (Mizoram)
Jerry Lalrinzuala is a 23-year-oldleft back from Mizoram who plays for Chennaiyin FC. His father was a Police officer who played football for the Army teams. Jerry started playing football when he was five and continued playing despite his parents’ disapproval as they wanted him to focus on studies. Jerry would secretly attend football trials but was once caught by his father. He was a part of the AIFF Elite Academy before Chennaiyin signed him in 2016.It didn’t take long for the youngster to show his talent and was announced “Emerging Player of The Season” in his debut season. In 2016, Jerry went on to attend a sponsored training stint in France with Ligue 1 side Metz. The 2017-18 season was a memorable one for Chennaiyin fans as they went on to win their second ISL trophy but it would not have been possible without Jerry who just missed one game throughout the season and was the only Indian in the star-studded backline of Chennaiyin side. He made his senior national debut in 2017 against Nepal when he came on as a substitute for Narayan Das.
Narayan Das (Tribeni, West Bengal)
Born in Tribeni, West Bengal, Narayan Das is a 27-year-old who plays for Chennaiyin FC as a left back. Narayan Das graduated from the prestigious Tata Football Academy before making his debut for Pailan Arrows in the I-League in 2012. In a career spanning more than ten years, Narayan has played for some iconic clubs like Dempo and East Bengal and also holds the record for the second most number of games in the history of ISL. He was one of the key players for the Sergio Lobera led FC Goa in 2017-18 season, helping them qualify for the semi-finals. On 19 November 2013 Das made his debut for the senior Indian side against Nepal. He has also scored a goal for India against Puerto Rico in 2016.
He was a member of the 2015 SAFF Cup and the 2018 Intercontinental Cup-winning Indian teams. After spending the 2020-21 season with East Bengal, Narayan Das signed a two-year deal with the Marina Machans.
Aqib Nawab (West Bengal)
Aqib Nawab is a 19-year-old defender from West Bengal who is part of the Chennaiyin FC squad as development player for Hero ISL 2021-22. Taking up football was an easy choice for Aqib whose grandfather and father were also footballers. Aqib is a graduate from Reliance Foundation Young Champs and trained six years at RYFC before deciding to be a professional footballer. At RYFC, Aqib learned the basics of football as well as his tactical side before signing for the two-time ISL winners in 2020. Aqib’s versatility is his biggest strength as he can be deployed either as right back or center back.
Rahul K is a 17-year-old defender from Chennai who is a part of the Chennaiyin FC squad as a development player for ISL 2021-22. Rahul started playing football at the age of 12 before Chennaiyin FC scouted him during U-12 trials as he went on to represent the club in the U-13 and U-15 category. In 2018, He was also called up for the India U-15 trials. His skill, speed, fitness and his deadly left-footed control on the ball set him apart from other players. In the year 2020 Rahul signed a multiyear contract with Chennaiyin FC to continue his growth with the club. Rahul’s extraordinary defending skills enabled him to make his cut in the CFC’s final squad and expectations will be high from Rahul to deliver if he gets the opportunity.
Rafael Crivellaro (Brazil)
Rafael Crivallaro is a 32-year-old Brazilian attacking midfielder who plays for Chennaiyin FC in the ISL. Hailing from the city of Porto Alegre, Rafael spent his youth days at the Brazilian club SC Internacional and at Empoli FC in Italy. He began his professional career in Brazil which was followed by a successful four-year spell at Portuguese club Vitoria Guimaraes. During his time at Vitoria, Rafael won the 2012-13 Taca de Portugal (Portuguese FA Cup) and also featured in the UEFA Europa League. In 2015 he moved to Asia for the first time, plying his trade for the UAE club Ajman and later played in Poland, Iran and Portugal before joining Chennaiyin FC in 2019. With seven goals and eight assists in the 2019-20 season, he was instrumental in the club’s runners-up finish. He captained the two-time ISL champions in the last season but an unfortunate ankle injury ruled him out for almost half the season. Rafael has now extended his stay at the club with a multi-year contract as a fan favourite Rafael will look to bounce back and impress on his comeback from injury in the upcoming season.
Lallianzuala Chhangte (Lunglei, Mizoram)
One of the most promising footballers in India currently, Chhangte is also called the ‘Mizo Flash’ for his flashy runs on the wings. He made his debut for the senior national side in 2015 against Nepal. He also had gone for two trials with Norwegian club, Viking FK as well.
He was born in Lunglei, Mizoram and his father was a teacher. Chhangte’s parents were against his interest in football as they wanted him to focus on study but that didn’t affect young Chhangte, whose only dream was to play football.
The young attacker used to skip classes to play the game and when a field wasn’t available, he and his four brothers would use rolled-up socks as a ball at home. He was in standard X when he decided to pursue football as a professional career despite hailing from a place where being in a village team was also considered as a big achievement. Chhangte has come a long way since.
He was top scorer in the U-19 I-League playing for DSK Shivajians where he scored 15 goals. Chhangte’s younger brother CVL Remtluanga is also a footballer, who currently plays for the reserve side of Odisha FC. Chhangte joined Chennaiyin FC in the 2019-2020 season and has impressed everyone with his performances since.
Anirudh Thapa (Uttarakhand)
Born in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, Anirudh Thapa is a 23-year-old midfielder who plays for Chennaiyin FC. Thapa started playing football because of his brother who was a school captain. He moved to St Stephens School in Chandigarh and lived in a hostel so that he could fulfil his dream of becoming a footballer. Thapa came through the ranks of AIFF Elite Academy before Chennaiyin FC signed him in 2016 along with four other players. Thapa made his ISL debut in November in 2016 against FC Goa and is currently the third most capped player for Chennaiyin FC with 83 matches under his belt. Thapa has represented India at almost every age group level. He was part of the Indian U-16 squad that won the SAFF Championship in 2013. Thapa made his senior national team debut in 2017 against St Kitts Nevis and now has 24 international caps and two goals to his name. Thapa was an integral part of the 2017-18 title-winning season as despite the tough competition in the midfield he played 16 games for the Marina Machans under coach John Gregory. He also won the AIFF Emerging player of the year award for the 2017-18 season.
Ariel Borysiuk (Poland)
Ariel Borysiuk is a Polish footballer who plays as a midfielder for Chennaiyin FC in the ISL. The 30-year-old Borysiuk started playing football in his hometown and trained at the local club TOP 54 Biala Podlaska from 2004 to 2007. He represented Poland at the junior levels right from U-17 to U-21, before earning a senior team debut in 2010. He has made 12 international appearances. In his 14-year long professional career, Borysiuk has played 350 games which also includes experience of playing in 2011-12 Bundesliga for FC Kaiserslautern. He also featured in seven Europa League matches in 2011-12. Borysiuk has won the Polish Cup five times-four with Legia Warsaw and one with Lechia Gdansk.
Ninthoinganba Meetei (Imphal, Manipur)
Born in Imphal, Manipur, Ninthoi is a 20-year-old winger who plays for Chennaiyin FC. Ninthoi was a part of the Indian team in the U-17 World Cup held in India in 2017. Ninthoi came to limelight after winning the Best Player Award and guiding India to win the SAFF U-18 Championship. He is the product of AIFF Elite Academy who joined Indian Arrows in 2017 to play in the I-League where he made 24 appearances in two seasons before signing a three-year contract with the Northeast United FC.
He made an impact in his first ISL season itself playing 11 games with an average of 18 passes per game. After showing glimpses of his talent with Northeast United FC, Ninthoi has now joined Chennaiyin in search of more playing time.
Germanpreet Singh (Gurdaspur city, Punjab)
Germanpreet Singh was born in Gurdaspur city of Punjab. Germanpreet spent his youth career in AIFF Academy before making an I-League debut in 2015 for the Goan club Dempo and in the same year he scored his first ever professional goal which came against Royal Wahingdoh. Germanpreet made his senior national debut in August in 2016 against Bhutan in a friendly match and now has a total nine appearances under his belt for the Blue Tigers.
He is one of the longest serving players of Chennaiyin team with over four years in Marina Machans’s colors which includes the 2017-18 title-winning season. In the 2019-2020 season he formed a strong all-Indian midfield partnership with Anirudh Thapa as Marina Machans went all the way to the finals. In 2020, Germanpreet signed a multi-year contract with the two-time ISL winners.
Vladimir Koman (Hungary)
The Hungarian attacking midfielder Vladimir Koman plays for Chennaiyin FC in the ISL. The 32-year-oldveteran footballer has represented Hungry national team in all age groups and was also a part of the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup team that finished third in the competition. Koman was the second highest goal scorer in that tournament with five goals in six matches. He also played a key role in guiding the U-19 Hungarian side to the semi-finals at the 2008 UEFA European Championship. Koman made senior international debut in 2010 and played 36 matches. He has seven international goals to his name including goals in the UEFA Euro qualifiers and World Cup qualifiers. The Ukrainian-born footballer has played for UC Sampdoria in Serie A and for AS Monacoin France. Koman has also played in the six Europa League matches for UC Sampdoria followed by stints in Russia and Turkey as well. In a professional career spanning over 15 years, the attacking midfielder has 300-plus club appearances, including 22 goals and 23 assists, to his name. Now with Chennaiyin FC Koman will be looking to guide the Marina Machans to their third title.
Lukasz Gikiewicz (Poland)
Lukasz Gikiewicz, a 34-year-old Polish footballer, plays as striker for Chennaiyin FC in ISL. Gikiewicz has a wealth of experience playing for clubs across Asia and Europe and he has also featured in two of the world’s biggest club tournaments-the Europa League and the Champions League, making a combined 12 appearances. During his spell at Polish outfit Slask Wroclaw, Gikiewicz played a crucial role in the club’s second league title in 2011-12 and also helped them lift the Polish Super Cup in the next year. Gikiewicz has been gifted with a strong physique and good aerial ability. In 2017-18, playing in the Jordanian Pro League, he finished as the top scorer. In 2020, Gikiewicz got infected with coronavirus but recovered successfully and made a comeback onto the field. During his youth and junior days, Gikiewicz had impressed many with his brilliant performance in the lower division Polish league, representing Wigry Suwalki and Unia Janikowo. His twin brother Rafalis also a footballer who plays for Bundesliga side FC Augsburgas a goalkeeper.
Mirlan Murzaev (Kyrgyzstan)
Mirlan Murzaev is a 31-year-old attacker from Kyrgyzstan who plays for Chennaiyin FC in the ISL. Murzaev is the highest goal scorer and the second most capped player for his national team with 14 goals in 48 appearances. He has played in Kyrgyzstan for most of his career in various divisions with few stints in foreign countries. He started his professional career in 2008 with FK Dordoi Bishkek, a club that plays in Kyrgyzstan’s first division and later moved on to play in Russia for Lokomotiv Moscow’s reserve team and Israeli club Hapoel Petah Tikva and then returned to join Denizlispor. Before joining CFC, Murzaev was playing for his boyhood club FK Dordoi Bishkek to whom he helped in clinching the 2019-20 league title with 10 goals in 13 outings. Preferably a right winger Murzaev can play anywhere in the attacking position.
Jobby Justin (Kerala)
Jobby Justin is a 27-year-old forward from Kerala who plays for Chennaiyin FC. Jobby grew up playing football on the beaches of Vettucaud but did not take the game seriously until the standard VIII when he joined St Joseph’s HSS. He was Playing for St Mary’s Club, when his talent started getting recognised in the local football circle. He represented Kerala U-19 team in the junior national championship. Jobby soon received a job at Kerala State Electricity Board and played for their local team in Kerala Premier League. In the 2016-17 season, Jobby caught the eyes of East Bengal scout and the former India International Alvito De Cunha, who offered him a two-year contract. He took a two-month leave from his job to visit Kolkata and got to see what professional football really is before signing a contract with East Bengal. Jobby scored 11 goals in 27 matches for East Bengal which includes goals in the Kolkata Derby against Mohun Bagan. He signed for ATK in the 2019-20 season to play in ISL but didn’t get a lot of opportunities in the first eleven and came mostly as a substitute. Jobby suffered a ligament injury during a practice session before the start of 2020-21 ISL which ruled him out of the entire season. Chennaiyin FC signed Jobby Justin on a 2-year contract in the hope to strengthen their forward options.
Rahim Ali (West Bengal)
Rahim Ali is an Indian forward born in Barrackpore, West Bengal. Rahim is a product of AIFF’s Elite Academy. Rahim’s favourite Indian football player is Sunil Chhetri. He was also part of the 2017 U-17 FIFA World Cup held in India but didn’t get an opportunity to play any match. After the World Cup, Rahim joined Indian Arrows to play in the I-League and played 30 games for the club in two seasons, scoring once and assisting twice. In 2019 Rahim signed for Chennaiyin and in the 2020-21 season coach Csaba Lazlo showed immense faith in Rahim’s capabilities as he went on to play 14 games in the season scoring on two occasions. Rahim has now extended his stay at Chennaiyin FC with a two-year contract. Rahim made his senior national team debut in September against Nepal.
Johnson Matthews (Mumbai)
Johnson Matthews is a 20-year-old winger/forward from Mumbai who plays for Chennaiyin FC in ISL. Johnson started his career as a striker for his school team St Francis D’Assisi and led Mumbai’s junior team at Inter-District Championship. Later he also represented Maharashtra in the 2019 Santosh Trophy. Johnson got minutes under his belt, when Chennaiyin played against fellow ISL outfits Bengaluru FC and Odisha FC in friendly fixtures in Goa recently. Johnson’s first-ever club was Mumbai FC whom he represented in the U-15 I-League. Johnson also represented FC Pune City U-18 team with whom he went on to win the youth league. He played in local Mumbai leagues throughout his career like Borivali Premier League, where he represented and played a vital role for three-time champions Fleet Footers FC. Johnson has also plied his trade for Hyderabad FC reserve side before signing for Marina Machans.
Suhail Pasha (Chennai, Tamil Nadu)
Born in a family of greats, Suhail is the son of Indian legend and current Chennaiyin FC assistant coach, Sabir Pasha. Unlike his father who played in wide positions, Suhail is an attacking midfielder. Suhail came through the ranks of Chennaiyin FC, playing for U-18 and B team and then moved to Chennai City FC to play in the I-League.
Suhail made his professional debut for the Chennai City FC against Aizawl FC in 2019. In his first season with Chennai City, Suhail made 12 appearances across all competitions.
Suhail is now back with Chennaiyin FC this time with the senior team and will get the opportunity to impress coach Bozidar Bandovic.
Mohamed Liyaakath (Chennai)
Mohamed Liyaakath is a 17-year-old attacker from Chennai who is now a part of the Chennaiyin FC’s squad as a development player for the upcoming season. He started playing football at the age of seven and played the sport in his school as well. Liyaakath comes from a very humble background as his father works as a mechanic. However, despite monetary issues, Liyaakath’s parents supported him to pursue a career as professional footballer. He was part of the Chennaiyin FC setup from the youth days after the ISL club scouted him during the grassroot development squad. Liyaakath made an impressive outing during the youth league when he scored 23 goals with CFC U-13 team and emerged as the leading scorer in the Chennai zone. Liyaakath was also part of the Marina Machans’s U-15 squad that won the DBYC Fr. Mohanraj Memorial Tournament in 2018. After his impressive performances, he was selected in the India U-15 team squad in 2018 and went on to make maiden appearance during a tri-nation tournament in UAE in 2019.