Manorama Sports Star 2023: The rise of KP Rahul

K P Rahul
Rahul is a versatile footballer who can play as a forward or a right winger. File photo: ISL

 The career trajectory of footballer K P Rahul, who has become an integral part of the national team and Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League (ISL) over the last couple of seasons, bears some striking similarities with the footballing journey of I M Vijayan, one of Indian football's all-time greats.

Both Rahul and Vijayan learned the basics of the game at the Corporation Stadium in Thrissur. They are proficient with both their left and right foot and possess unique goal-scoring skills. Both of them broke into the national team before the age of 23 and immediately made their mark at the international level by scoring spectacular goals. 

Interestingly, both of them evolved into professional footballers outside Kerala. While Rahul rose through the ranks of the All India Football Federation's developmental side Indian Arrows in the I-League, Vijayan was part of different clubs in Kolkata. 

One of the six nominees for the Manorama Sports Star Award 2023, Rahul is a versatile footballer who can play as a forward or a right winger. The 23-year-old hailing from Ollukkara in Thrissur is blessed with blistering pace and exceptional dribbling skills. He has impressed one and all with his consistency, work ethic and temperament in his first match in national colours against Singapore at the Hung Thinh Friendly Football Tournament held in Vietnam in September, 2022. 

Rahul grabbed the headlines during the Hangzhou Asian Games when he scored against China in India's opening match and became the first goal-scorer for the country at the Asian Games in about 13 years. Although India had a disappointing campaign at the quadrennial event, Rahul's performance was one of the few bright spots for the team. 

Rahul, who has been a key member of Blasters in the ISL since 2019, was the lone Kerala player in the India squad for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup held across six Indian cities. While playing for Indian Arrows, he has made 37 league appearances in total, scoring five goals and providing three assists. Although several ISL clubs approached him with tempting offers, he chose to join the Yellow Brigade and has remained loyal to the club.

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