Dheeraj Singh, coming of age

posted in Interviews by Souvik Roy Chowdhury on 20th April 2021

posted in Interviews

by Souvik Roy Chowdhury

on 20th April 2021

Dheeraj Singh, coming of age

Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem has captured the imagination of the nation, once again. If the Man of The Match award against Al Wahda wasn’t enough to confirm the same, a second successive appearance in the AFC Champions League Team of Matchday should seal it.

The perceptive yet agile lanky looking 20-year-old saw the limelight shine brightly on him four years back with top-draw performances between the sticks for India in the FIFA U17 World Cup. 

A trial at Scottish club Motherwell soon followed. However, he hasn’t been able to garner success at the club level with much regularity in his first few years. That is till he signed for FC Goa in January earlier this year. 

Since then he has been a regular fixture in the team for Juan Ferrando. And now he sees himself back in the headlines thanks to two captivating performances in the AFC Champions League, helping the Gaurs secure two clean sheets en route to two points in as many games in the competition. 

The last game against Al Wahda saw the man from Manipur pull off a flurry of brilliant saves to help the former ISL League champions grab another vital point. 

“I have a humble request to all. Please don’t hype me up. Because I am young and there are a lot of areas I still have to improve,” said Dheeraj at the pre-match Press Conference before the game on Tuesday night against Iranian powerhouse Persepolis.

“I want to stay calm and focused on what I can do on and off the pitch and follow the instruction of the coach.” 

FC Goa is a tough side to beat. And a look at the numbers tells the story. Currently on a 17-game unbeaten streak after having finished their Indian Super League season on a run of 15 games without tasting defeat, Juan Ferrando’s men have become the embodiment of the word ‘defiant’.

A big part of the new identity has been their performance in the AFC Champions League on an end, they have not always found success. After securing just 3 clean sheets from 22 games in the Indian Super League, the Gaurs have transformed themselves as a side more than capable of being pragmatic when the time comes and the defensive line showcases dogged determination time and again.

Dheeraj’s performances have further helped established that tone. Awarded the Man Of The Match award in the last game, the former Indian U17 keeper has been one of the brightest sparks in the FC Goa colours in the tournament. 

“We are not only representing FC Goa but the whole country. This has been a really good opportunity for me, but if you look closely at the last game, I made a few errors in the game but always had my teammates to back me up. We play as a team and if anyone makes a mistake, we are there to support him,” Dheeraj further added at the press conference. 

A new chapter, a new Dheeraj 

Having meandered from club to club in the past few years, Dheeraj is now looking to live up to the early promise he showed. Having taken the blows of not being the first choice keeper in the past couple of seasons, the 20-year old spoke candidly about his maturation over the years. 

“The World Cup was a big thing for me. It gave (me) a lot of confidence. However, for the last season and a half, I only played one game at ATK Mohun Bagan. For a goalkeeper and a young player, you need matches to improve. Luckily I was able to move to FC Goa in January. All I needed was trust from the coach,” revealed Dheeraj. 

“The time at ATK Mohun Bagan was a learning process for me, both as a player and a human. You don’t get everything over a year or two years or even a few weeks. So, it taught me a lot of lessons in terms of patience. 

“And then the move to Goa happened. I did not play that well at the beginning but the coach has kept on supporting me to perform. I have no pressure coming from the coach. He asks me to play my natural game. And that was very important for me to get my confidence back.”

That confidence has led the youngster to help FC Goa forge a defensive line that seems to come up trumps time and again – and sometimes against all odds – to keep anyone from scoring yet against the Gaurs.

The world of football and romance surrounding it is often crowded with two words, ‘what if’! And after two fighting draws against Al-Rayyan and Al-Wahda, the Indian football aficionados, thanks to performances like these have found the courage to not say it aloud, but to at least murmur or have that thought graze across her/his plane of conscience!

What if?!