The young goalkeeper talked candidly about his experiences and journey ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem is quickly becoming a household name in Indian football. The young player first found fame after his performances in the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup that was held in India. Since then, the goalkeeper has gradually improved his game and has now established himself as one of the best in his position in the country.

He has earned a lot of plaudits thanks to his recent performances in the AFC Champions League for FC Goa. The custodian will now travel with the national team to Qatar in preparation for the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers against Qatar, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. 

Speaking in an interview with the AIFF, Dheeraj shared several interesting stories from his life, his time with the national team and the competition between goalkeepers.

Rise to stardom

Dheeraj Singh burst onto the scene after his performances in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017. While talking about how he has dealt with the sudden rise to fame, he said, “Obviously, it was a good feeling, but I knew it was just the start of my career.

I didn’t want to get carried away with this stuff. I still have a long way to go, I am very young and it’s a motivational factor for me to work harder for the future.” 

Becoming a goalkeeper

The custodian shared anecdotes from his life and talked about how he decided to become a goalkeeper, a position that is not very popular among the youth. He said, “I never knew I would become a professional player or a goalkeeper. Before I started playing football, I would play cricket with my cousin brothers. I used to play as a wicket-keeper, and loved catching the ball and diving.”

“He (his trainer in a local academy) saw me (catching the ball under the sticks) and he said he could give me goalkeeping training. I replied I’ll try and I caught up well with him,” he further added. 

Playing FIFA U-17 World Cup in India

Dheeraj also shared his experience of playing at the World Cup in 2017 and what a confidence booster it was for his career.

“The U-17 World Cup was the biggest platform in our age-group. There was no bigger tournament than that. We played three games, but did not deliver a good result. But, the most important thing was we had a lot of things to learn from it. We gained a lot of confidence as a player and as a person,” he expressed.

“Right after the World Cup, we had an opportunity to play in the I-League. That is a good transition. Playing from a youth setup to a proper professional league, I think that was a very good moment for all of us.”

Experience in national team setup

Dheeraj Singh is one of the probables travelling for the qualifiers with the national team. When asked about the experience of being in the national setup, he said, “I feel really happy to be part of the national team. It is an honour for me to get this opportunity at such a young age. Getting to play and/or train with the best goalkeepers in the league, like we have Amrinder (Singh)) and Gurpreet (Singh Sandhu), it’s a very important thing for me.”

“I am very young. There are lots of areas where I have to improve. Seeing Gurpreet and Amrinder playing, it’s a very tough competition and a tough challenge for me. They have set that benchmark and hopefully I am looking for my chance and use every kind of opportunity that comes towards me.” he further added. 

Idea of playing outside India

The 21-year-old also expressed a desire to play in a foreign league. However, at the same time, he also knows that he must improve his game.

“It is obvious for every young player to have a dream of playing outside India in a bigger league. I am still young, I have a lot of time. I have lots of areas where I need to improve and work upon. So, first of all, I need to concentrate on doing this stuff first. If an opportunity comes up, I will grab it,” he opined.

What to expect in games ahead

The Indian football team is all set to fly to Qatar to play the rest of their FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers. Speaking about what the fans can expect, especially after a turbulent start to the qualifying campaign, Dheeraj Singh said, “My personal opinion is that in the last two friendly games against Oman and UAE, we found many positives and a lot of young players getting their debuts.”

“We have to grab this opportunity and we have to prove what we are capable of. Hopefully we utilize this opportunity in the best way and make people proud,” the custodian concluded.

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