DURING ITS INAUGURAL EDITION, the Indian Super League (ISL) franchises drew a lot of criticism from fans and critics alike for hiring foreign players with attractive resumes, but too old to be effective in an intense, compact tournament like this. The franchise officials were new to the game and it showed; most of their star overseas players, including most of the 'marquee players', proved inadequate when it came to performing well on several matches held at short intervals.
But this year, things are changing, and the ISL teams are going for younger, more agile players who can pull through 3 matches a week. At the same time, young players, full of energy and trying to catch the attention of some big club, also see ISL as a good tournament to have on the resume.
Perhaps with a similar intent, Francis Dadzie, a 20 year old Ghanaian forward, has joined the North East United squad ahead of the 2nd season of ISL. A 6 foot tall, physically imposing player with a lethal left foot, Dadzie has been called 'Mini Hulk' by fans.
Dadzie has played for a few clubs in Ghana; including Division Two side Cheetah FC and Premier League clubs Bechem United and Asante Kotoko. Last year he caused a lot of stir when MLS side Portland Timbers invited him for a trial. The Portland coach was impressed with his physique:
"Obviously, you see he’s a big, strong boy, especially for 18-years-old. He looks the part and we’ll see how he does."
Well, he did not get a contract at Timbers. Which perhaps indicates his game still needs polish. But he is still young and that was one full year of training with a top division club ago. There is no need to assume he has fully matured in that time, but he has definitely grown, and the exposure he will get at ISL will definitely help him get better.
With the likes of Nicolás Vélez and Diomansy Kamara already in the NEUFC team it will be interesting to see if Dadzie gets used much. But his energy and physical game make him a valuable as a fresh substitute in the last 30 minutes. And with Vélez to join the Guwahati-based franchise only towards the end of November, Dadzie can be on the line to be the number one backup for Kamara if he manages to outshine Holicharan Nazary in training.
It will be interesting to find out how NorthEast coach Cesar Farias plans to use him. He was full of praise for the player after the signing was completed,
"Francis is a very strong player who knows how to use his power to take advantage and create chances. He can pressure defenders and his youth adds more desire and hunger up front. He has an impressive left foot as well."
How the move turns out for NEUFC we will have to wait and see. But one thing is for sure: if 'Mini Hulk' manages to smash some goals in the upcoming ISL and subsequently lands a valuable contract at a good club somewhere, many more such young foreign players will flock to ISL to display their talents, and perhaps help the tournament shed its reputation of importing too many tired old players.