As part of our NxGn India series, Goal takes a closer look at the most promising young talents in the country. Having revealed the ten potential stars who have found a place in this year's list, it's time for an in-depth peek at these players who could play a huge part in the country's future.
Next up is Indian Arrows right-back Hendry Antonay who is striking all the right chords in his endeavour to rise up the ranks in Indian football.
The 19-year-old has been impressive down the right flank for the Arrows this season in what has been his first full season in the I-League. He clocked 12 appearances for Shanmugam Venkatesh's side and impressed in both attack and defence.
Antonay was inspired to play as a full-back by former Barcelona right-back Dani Alves and just like the Brazilian, he loves to bomb up and down the wings. It is definitely a welcome trait for a full-back but maturity and level-headedness are two characteristics that have helped him reach where he is right now.
"The experience was great this season. We were all young players and were up against physically stronger players," he told Goal. "Playing against such good teams was great. We had good coaches who did not put much pressure on us. They taught us a lot and I think it is a great experience for any young player."
The Karnataka lad started his career from Bengaluru at Ozone FC before moving to Bengaluru FC and then subsequently to Pune FC.
"I started my football career with Ozone FC’s academy. I was there for three years before moving to Bengaluru FC for a season. I played a lot of youth tournaments for Bengaluru before leaving the city for Pune FC. I played U18 I-League and other national tournaments for them before getting selected for the India U17 World Cup team."
Getting selected for the 2017 U17 World Cup team was one of the high points for Antonay. He was drafted into the side after impressing at a selection camp in Mumbai in 2015 by then coach Nicolai Adam. Antonay continued his progress for the next couple of years with the India U17 World Cup team and made the cut for the final squad for the tournament.
Though he did not make an appearance in the tournament, it was a huge learning curve for him.
"We never thought we would be playing such a tournament. We had to handle a lot of pressure because we were playing in India with huge crowds supporting us. To deal with that pressure was a huge lesson. Senior players from the national team also interacted with us and helped us deal with it."
However, it was not all smooth-sailing for Antonay after that. In fact, he is the only player from the final squad for the 2017 World Cup who is still at Arrows. But he is stronger for that experience.
He joined Chennaiyin FC before the start of the 2018-19 season but could not force his way into the first team. But he saw the chance to play in the I-League second division with Chennaiyin's B team as an opportunity and made the most of it.
"I knew that these are years in my life I will not get back. I had to improve. It doesn’t matter If I was playing the ISL or the I-League. I just needed to play. So I was happy to play the I-League second division for the Chennaiyin B team.
"Even the teams in the second division were good. And I learnt good things that season. Also, interacting with senior players in the Chennaiyin first team was also great. I learnt a lot of things inclduing how to train well, how to interact with players and how to go about your diet and other important things."
After that season, Arrows showed interest in him and he decided to leave Chennaiyin FC - a decision that has seen him emerge into the limelight again.
At a time when the full-back role has evolved into a very important aspect in the build-up play apart from just defence, Hendry Antonay has shown he has what it takes to succeed in this position. More importantly, his slow but steady rise up the ranks has bestowed upon him a clarity of thought that is rare among players of his age.
"I just want to improve my game. I need to improve technically and become stronger physically. Rest everything is not on me. I just need to work hard and learn more. "