I have to grow with experience and work hard every day- Dheeraj Singh
Written by: Pradyumna Tembhekar
The young shot-stopper spoke about his experience playing in the Toyota Yaris LaLiga World and the ISL.
From playing for India at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in October 2017 to giving trials in Europe and making his senior team debut for an Indian Super League club in August 2018, this young man has reached some great highs in his career in less than a year’s time.
Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem made his senior debut in the Toyota Yaris LaLiga World pre-season tournament in Kochi. It featured hosts Kerala Blasters, A-League club Melbourne City and LaLiga regulars Girona FC. The shot-stopper had a mixed bag of events in his first ever game, where he did all he could to keep Melbourne at bay, but eventually, it ended up in a 6-0 defeat for the hosts.
Fast forward a few months and the goalkeeper has now made his ISL debut for the Blasters in their opening game of the season, as they beat heavyweights ATK 0-2 on the road. The youngster caught up with Khel Now's Pradyumna Tembhekar to reflect on his whirlwind journey in the game in the last 12 months.
Dheeraj made his senior team debut for Kerala Blasters in the Toyota Yaris LaLiga World pre-season tournament in Kochi, against Melbourne City
Reflecting on his senior debut in the pre-season extravaganza he said, “It was really a big day for me and very good opportunity to have debuted for Kerala Blasters. The match against Melbourne City was a great opportunity for me. Thanks to the coach and the support staff for giving me the chance to play in the senior team,” he said.
Though there was not much positivity as far as the scoreline of the match was concerned, he definitely cherished the moments of his first ever match at the highest level of the game. His previous league experience was in the I-League, where he played for the Indian Arrows before flying off to the United Kingdom.
"I learned a lot from the match. Even though we lost 6-0, I got to learn many things. I got an opportunity to play in front of a big crowd. Most of the matches which I played were at the youth level and in the I-League. It was my first game after six months and it felt great for me."
Dheeraj signed a contract with the Blasters earlier and joined the first-team during the Kochi franchise's pre-season camp held at Transstadia, Gujarat. Speaking of his experience so far, an elated Dheeraj replied, "It has been really great so far, with the staff and senior players always supporting me, motivating me and now I am ready to give my everything in the upcoming season."
The youngster had a three-month stint with Motherwell FC
Earlier this year, Dheeraj was called up by Scottish Premiership club Motherwell for a trial and that turned out to be quite a story for the club as well as the player himself. His three-month stint in the United Kingdom saw the club getting massive social media reach due to the rising Indian star’s arrival.
He recollected his memories and overall experience as a player and as a person as well. The adjustments he had to make and the schedule he had to follow were some quite interesting points to hear from him about. “It was really a great time for me because leaving India for three and a half months in a new city, new country, all alone was really great. Football can be learned anywhere, but there I learned a lot about my responsibilities as a player and also as a human being," he said.
He also talked about his daily routine while he trained with Motherwell. "I didn't find much difference in the facilities as Indian clubs are also improving. We do get some good facilities there; we trained twice a day, with a gym session and a football training session. I was living in a different house and I used to come by 7:30 in the morning for training. After that we had our gym session, followed by lunch. If we had any medical problems then we had to stay back to get those problems solved," he explained.
After his stint with Motherwell, he then moved on for a trial with Premier League outfit AFC Bournemouth, where he tried to get an opportunity on the south coast of England. His transition from Scotland to England was technically very different and his opinion suggests the same. “I was there in Bournemouth for about 2-3 weeks. It was a dream of mine to have a taste of English football since I was a young kid. I was grateful to have that opportunity for two and a half weeks,“ he added.
Dheeraj emphasises on proper education at the grassroots level for the better development of players in India, so that they can do better at clubs in Europe and all around the world. "I think we need to set up a proper grassroots structure and give the kids some good football education," he opined.
Speaking about all the coaches that the youngster has played under he said, "I can't have a favourite coach as such because under every different coach we need to play in the coach's specific style of football, so as to achieve results," he asserted.
Although India didn't progress to the knockout stages of the 2017 U-17 FIFA World Cup, Dheeraj made some good saves
Playing with arguably the two best national team centre-backs in Sandhesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika for his club must be a huge morale boost for the young goalkeeper and he agreed with the notion. "I was really confident and I didn't have much pressure. I was feeling relaxed and confident throughout the game, as I had two lions standing in front of me. So, I was very comfortable between the posts," said the shot-stopper about his ISL debut on Saturday.
When asked about his overall gameplay and some of the mistakes he commited on his debut, Dheeraj replied with a pleasing smirk. “As a player, I have to go through bad days, but I have still got to learn. The most important is the ISL and I have to grow up from this experience. I have to work hard every day."
Dheeraj is currently being coached by KBFC head coach David James, who is also a former England international
Working with a head coach who is a Premier League record-holding goalkeeper must have been advantageous for him since he has got the chance to learn from one of the world's best keepers. When asked about David James' bits of advice to the youngster in the dressing room he said, "He told me to enjoy the game, no matter how many mistakes you make just go with the flow; every player has made mistakes, so never be scared to commit any mistakes."
Well, it has just been the start that any youngster at his age could only dream of. India certainly has a rising star who is definitely a promising prospect for the national team and can be a safe bet to guard the goal.