The shot-stopper speaks exclusivelyly on his formative years at Shillong Lajong, his experience in the ISL and plans for the future.
FC Pune City has been a team in the Indian Super League (ISL) whose consistency has always been questioned as they have failed to make the playoffs in any of the league’s three previous seasons. But this campaign, the Stallions are in a new shape all because of their revamped squad.
Stellar performances from foreigners Marcelinho, Emiliano Alfaro and Jonatan Lucca along with the likes of Gurtej Singh, Adil Khan and Ashique Kuruniyan have helped Pune maintain a spot in the top four. But, arguably the biggest improvement has been in their goalkeeping department, where young shot-stopper has impressed fans and pundits alike.
The boy from Himachal made his name at Shillong Lajong last season. The 21-year old came through the famed youth ranks at the club and ended the season with four Man of the Match awards for his stellar performances for the Reds. Kaith has already made a mark in his debut ISL season for the Stallions and he spoke to Khel Now’s Pune Correspondent Pradyumna Tembhekar regarding his development and experience in the new league.
Kaith’s journey from Lajong to Pune is well known to Indian football enthusiasts but how his journey started as a goalkeeper is still a secret. So, the young gloveman cleared the air as he said, “I always loved playing football and did not know much about goalkeeping but during my early days at an academy in Punjab there were no goalkeepers. So, being one of the tallest there, the coach handed me the goalkeeping gloves. From there, I started my journey as a goalkeeper,”
Kaith earned his stripes Shillong Lajong in the I-League
Shillong Lajong and the club’s then coach Thangboi Singto played a crucial role in Kaith’s development. Lajong gave him the exposure he needed as a young keeper and under the guidance of Singto, he and other youngsters matured day by day. Singto is a manager who always likes to promote youth and give them exposure so that they can flourish.
Speaking of Lajong’s youth system Vishal Kaith was full of praises for the Reds. “My time at Shillong was a very crucial period in my career. We had a lot of young, talented players and the lack of senior and experienced players allowed us to get more opportunities. A bunch of 6-7 youngsters always got game-time at Shillong and it helped to improve my game a lot.”
Kaith is undoubtedly one of the most improved goalkeepers in the country and at the age of 21, he has already featured in the I-league for two seasons before playing for the Stallions. So, his development graph is definitely on the rise and his experience in the ISL has been good so far.
The keeper had high praise for his team and teammates. While speaking about being seen as title contenders he added, “We are looking at one match at a time and to win the title we need to be in the top four. That’s our first target. If we finish in the top four then we will start thinking about the title. But, at the moment, we are focused on winning matches and we’ll see what the future holds for us.”
Kaith was also asked about the similarities and differences between current coach Ranko Popovic and former tactician Singto. On this he said that every coach has a different mindset, there are some similarities but most of it is different. Both Popovic and Singto are great coaches and they have their own philosophy so playing under both is a great experience for any player.
India successfully hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017
Football and its development in India is still in its embryonic stage and hence Kaith also being a young goalie was asked about the recently concluded FIFA U-17 World Cup which India hosted. The 21-year-old had followed the Indian Colts closely in the grand event and he opined that the youngsters were blessed to have had the opportunity to play in a World Cup at such a young age.
However, he pointed out that the development doesn’t just end with the end of the World Cup and was happy that the youngsters are being given a platform to prove themselves. He also hailed the idea of the AIFF’s development side Indian Arrows where the youngsters are getting the chance to test their mettle in the I-League. The shot-stooper was also impressed with young custodian Dheeraj Singh’s performances and claims that the future of goalkeeping is in safe hands.
Kaith who has also impressed at the U-19 and U-23 levels has now set his sights on the national team. But, his race will be difficult from here as he has to outrun India’s first-choice goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and other players like Amrinder Singh and Subrata Paul who have also impressed with their performances this season. But, for now, he wants to keep working hard and wait for India national team coach Stephen Constantine to make his decision.
“Seniors like Gurpreet Singh and Subrata Paul help me a lot whenever I go to the national team camp. They are very motivating and point out the areas I need to improve and the mistakes that I make. So, its always a good experience learning from the seniors,” Kaith explained.
Speaking about the Orange Army the shot-stopper said, “They are a great group of passionate supporters and their cheers encourage our team to perform. I always feel more confident thinking about the fact that whatever be the result the Orange Army will be there cheering for the team. I hope we give them more reasons to celebrate this season.”
The high-flying Stallions are looking to make the playoffs for the first time as they are placed third in the league table. They just need to continue doing what they have been doing this season and they can be a match for any team on their day.