The starlet is set to leave for European trials soon and says he would love to represent the country at another World Cup.
When India hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup, in 2017, it was the first time, the nation was participating at a FIFA event. Although, the hosts failed to win any of their games and progress beyond the group stages, the extravaganza was a complete success fdrawing record crowds and being hailed as the one of the best FIFA age-group tournaments ever held.
In the World Cup, the young Colts were unable to register a victory against any of their opponents. In spite of fighting displays, they were defeated by the likes of the USA, Colombia and Ghana.
The tournament gave the world new heroes like England’s Rhian Brewster and Phil Foden. Apart from several international starlets to watch out for in the future it also gave Indian Football its own newest poster-boy, and Dheeraj Singh whose inspired performances in goal, even in defeat won him millions of admirers.
Impregnable between the sticks, the 17-year-old Dheeraj was India’s saviour. He rose upto the occasion for the Indian Colts, safeguarding the goal, whenever the defenders floundered. He was a symbol of uncompromising spirit and his performance was a solace for the fans.
The youngster who is currently training with Indian Super League (ISL) outfit Kerala Blasters is set to leave the country soon for trials with some European clubs as he continues his rapid ascend to the top level. The shot-stopper spoke exclusively to Khel Now about his journey so far, his future plans and so on. Excepts:
Q1: You were part of the Indian Arrows side for a while in the I-League. How was your time there?
A – It was like continuing with the World Cup team and coach. I enjoyed training and playing for them while I was there.
Q2: What made you choose Kerala Blasters over other ISL clubs?
A – I am training with Kerala Blasters before going for trials to the UK. As David James is the head coach and being a great former goalkeeper, it is good to work under him. Other clubs had also offered me to join them to train for fitness, but Blasters were the first to offer me a stint. I am currently getting ready for my foreign stint, keeping fit here.
Q3: Do you think that training under David James and Co. will benefit you?
A – In the UK, I will be have trials with senior teams or reserve teams. It’s good to be training with the senior players and international players here in Kochi as it helps me a lot getting ready for these foreign stints.
Q4: You’re the new poster-boy of Indian Football. Does it exert any extra pressure on you?
A – I am just another player and need to break into the senior level before achieving anything in Indian football. There is no pressure on me from anyone.
Dheeraj Singh- The Manipuri Saviour
Q5: Do you think that the FIFA U-17 World Cup has kick-started a vibrant period of Indian football?
A – I certainly hope so. Anything that can help Indian football to become better is good for football and good for us.
Q6: How was it playing before 60000+ in the FIFA U-17 World Cup?
A – It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and great to be supported by so many fans. I hope fans start coming for all levels of football, not just the World Cup which was hosted by India.
Q7: Your pick between Indian Super League, and I-League?
A– The Indian Super league has more big international names and coaches. Both leagues have good quality of football and for us Indian players, wherever we are playing we need to perform well day in and day out.
Q8: Tell us about your experience working with coach Luis Norton de Matos?
A – I really enjoyed my time playing under him. He was really encouraging and confident that we will do well for the national team and with Indian Arrows.
Q9: You’re going to leave for European trials soon. Do you think it is the right step?
A- Everyone I have spoken to has told me to go and try in as many good standard leagues and clubs as possible at a young age. I am from India, so I would always love to play at the top level in India but if I get an opportunity in a higher standard league it will be a dream come true. I will keep trying till I am sure I can make it abroad.
Q10: What are your plans for the future?
A – Just to play as long as I can for the age-group national teams and then the senior national team and then do my best for whichever club I get the opportunity to play for.
He’ll undergo European trails soon.
Q11: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu recently gave you some advice. How did you take that?
A– He improved substantially after going on a foreign stint in Norway. I want to do the same and play abroad if and when the opportunity arises. Of course it depends on many other factors and my performance.
Q12: How’s Kerala Blasters’ fans, the Manjappada?
A – Fans are great! Super Atmosphere. Have watched them only on home matches.
Q13: Your idol, and your favourite team?
Q14: What’s your dream. Where do you want to reach?
A – If I can play for the Indian senior national team and if I can play in another World Cup, it would be a dream come true!