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FC goa reserve team goalkeeper Mallhar Shah thinks Indian football should do better in grassroots to become top professionals

Published at :February 13, 2024 at 12:08 AM
Modified at :February 13, 2024 at 12:08 AM
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Atawaris Warsi

The young and dynamic goalie also revealed his favourite player’s name.

Indian football’s star talisman, Sunil Chhetri, once emphasised that in India, aspiring talents encounter a stark reality: when young and striving to ascend, the support system often fails to match their ambitions. While not everyone faces this hurdle, Chhetri’s words shed light on the common struggle faced by many in the pursuit of their footballing dreams.

Khel Now, recognizing this gap, endeavors to bridge it by providing emerging Indian footballers with the vital exposure they require to thrive. In an exclusive interview with Mallhar Shah, who is one such promising young goalkeeper for FC Goa’s reserve team and pushes to rise through the ranks, the discussion delved into the intricacies of goalkeeping, the Goa Pro League, the Reliance Development League and Indian Football. Below is the conversation with him.

Journey so far

Mallhar Shah shared his journey into football, describing how he discovered and grew enamored with the sport. He said, “Basically like every other child I used to play cricket. Then one day I joined a local football class in Surat, and from there I started liking this sport, and I thought I want to become a pro footballer.”

“Becoming a goalkeeper came out of nowhere. I was a defender before and then suddenly the coach put me in goal once and I think I was just good at it. So, I thought I will just become a keeper. Then I joined Alchemy Football Academy in Bangalore after the pandemic, in 2021. I spent two years there and after that I signed for FC Goa reserve team.”

The Goa Pro League

He also shed light on the Goa Pro League and how the season has been personally for him. FC Goa are currently lingering in the sixth position, six points behind league leaders SESA FA. We have been preparing for a few months now, and then in Goa Pro League we were playing really well, but we couldn’t get the results sometimes, which we deserved to win, but we still have six games to go and I think we will try our best to turn it around.”

Mallhar also revealed details about the upcoming U-21 Reliance Development League set to commence shortly. “We have Reliance starting and we are still preparing as a team, and it’s right around the corner, so all of us will look to give our best.”

All About Goalkeeping

Goalkeeping, dubbed the most challenging position in football, demands precision amid immense pressure and zero margin for error. Mallhar believes the same. “Being a keeper, there is no margin for errors. One mistake can hand you a loss or one good pass of yours can give you the win. It’s a very mentally challenging position of course with everyone just pointing fingers at you. Only a keeper knows what a keeper goes through.”

“We have training in the morning generally. We basically start with the team warming up like basic dynamics and all, and then we have specific keeper sessions with our goalkeeper coach, and then we work on different things; distributions, savings, all of that. After we are done with the goalkeeper training, then we have a team training session. It’s focused on technical as well as tactical”, the FC Goa reserve team goalkeeper illuminated how his training regimen unfolds.

He also shared insights into the special drills that he and the team prioritize during training sessions. “Since in our team all of the keepers are young, the coach tends to focus more on basics. We work a lot on distribution as well because goalkeeper more than just saving in the modern game, we are the first line of attack as well. We work mostly on all aspects of goalkeeping.”

Pressure and Penalty Strategies

Being the last line of defense in football carries immense pressure, as a single mistake can lead to significant consequences. Mallhar expresses how a goalkeeper’s single mistake can change the entire course of the game, but also emphasizes that the goalkeeper shouldn’t dwell on it.

“One mistake can change the total outcome of the game. But to think about it, before the ball goes past the keeper, the ball goes past the other 10 people. Everyone makes mistakes, even the top keepers make, and if we keep dwelling over it, there is going to be no good outcome. We should analyse it, understand our mistake, we should train on it, and focus on the next action.”

“Everyone saw the World Cup 2022, how Argentina got the win, how much their keeper(Emiliano Martínez) played an important role when it came to penalty shootouts; all the mind games with the forwards. Although the new rules have made it much harder for the keepers, that we can’t go and speak to the strikers, we can’t get into their heads. That was one of the facets in our saving, but since now we don’t have that in our favour, keepers tend to rely more on their instincts, their saving abilities, and reading the player. If you save the penalties, you are the hero of the game, everyone’s going to run towards you and that’s the best feeling ever”, the young prodigy explained a bit about a goalkeeper’s penalty-saving strategies.

Indian Football

Mallhar also delved deep into his take on Indian Football and the team’s recent performance in the AFC Asian Cup 2023, where the Blue Tigers failed to secure a point and crashed out of the tournament in the group stage. “I think India is definitely a developing country in terms of football. I think we have been playing better than what we were playing a few years back, but then obviously the results(AFC Asian Cup 2023) have not been in our favour. In June or July we won two or three tournaments consecutively and at that time the crowd was supporting us so much, and then suddenly it was a bad tournament for the Indian team and there were a lot of critics.”

He also highlighted the gap between Indian and European football, identifying it as a missing link. “The main difference is that the kids over there have been playing since they were six, seven or eight. In India most of the players start playing very late. I think on grassroots we should do better if we are hoping for top professionals to come into the next few years. I think the governing bodies can do better as well when it comes to national team camps.”

Rapid Fire Questions

Q: Most Memorable moment for you so far?

A: When I joined FC Goa.

Q: Goa Pro League in a word?

A: Competitive.

Q: Favourite pre-game pump-up song?

A: 359 by Divine.

Q: Your most memorable career save?

A: A top corner save I made in a private match in Bangalore 2 years back.

Q: Favourite player?

A: Outfield – Cristiano Ronaldo, Goalkeeper – Aaron Ramsdale

Q: Favourite Club?

A: Real Madrid.

Q: Best match till date?

A: Friendly match vs Dream United in Bangalore.

Q: Worst match till date?

A: Against Kickstart in the KFSA League.

Q: Any quirky match day rituals?

A: I wear the same socks in every match.

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