The Blue Tigers are ready to move forward together as they prepare for the upcoming challenge of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers 2022 in Qatar, with a number of young guns a part of the 28-member Indian squad.
One such name is 20-year-old goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem, who will compete against senior pros Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Amrinder Singh for a place in the starting XI and also continue the process of ‘learning’ from the experienced duo.
In an interaction on AIFF TV, Dheeraj said: “I feel really happy to be part of the national team and it is an honour for me to get this opportunity at a young age. I get to learn a lot of things from the senior players by playing and training with the best goalkeepers in the league. We have Gurpreet paji and Amrinder paji and it’s a very important thing for me and I am looking forward to learning lots of things from them –- both on and off the pitch.”
The former U-17 World Cupper and Indian Arrows custodian, who received his first Blue Tigers call-up in November last year, recollected his welcome to the national team ‘family’ and explained how he has been learning from his seniors.
He quipped: “I still remember when I got the first call-up for the senior national team –- they (Gurpreet and Amrinder) congratulated me and the team welcomed me like a family member. They were very nice to me and told me that I have been doing well and have a lot to learn. They keep on motivating me, help me rectify my mistakes during training and tell me what to do and what not to do, what is better for me and what’s not. It is something very important and a huge learning for me.”
Dheeraj, who produced an eye-catching performance for his club FC Goa in the recently concluded AFC Champions League 2021 Group Stage in Goa — getting named twice in the ACL’s Team of the Week — spoke about the strength and depth in the Blue Tigers goalkeeping department, terming it as a ‘tough competition’.
“Honestly speaking, we have very good goalkeepers in India -– in the senior national team and the leagues. Many good goalkeepers are coming up and we have a very tight competition among ourselves. I am very young and have lots of areas that I have to improve upon.”
“It’s a very tough competition and a tough challenge for me and for every goalkeeper as they have set that benchmark for us to try and reach. I am working for that chance and know that I have to use the coming opportunity in the best way,” the former AIFF Academy cadet averred.
He also shared his thoughts on the overall rise in the number of top-quality goalkeepers domestically, starting right from the junior level and the increase in the opportunity for Indian custodians to gain playing time.
“Now, we have most clubs playing with Indian goalkeepers domestically. Obviously, for a goalkeeper, it is very important to play regularly to gain confidence. Training and playing matches are totally different as when you play games, you learn a lot of things and there are many unique situations that come up in the matches. It’s a good experience for a goalkeeper to keep on playing matches consistently,” Dheeraj opined.
“I think that’s the reason many goalkeepers are coming up with good standards. Even when I was in the junior national team, we had keepers like Nawaz (Mohammad Nawaz) and Gill (Prabhsukhan Singh Gill). They are all very good and having a very healthy goalkeeper quality and competition is very good. As a player, every day is a competition for me and they pushed me every day — that’s how I have grown and we go forward together as a goalkeepers’ union.”