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Want to establish myself as one of the best goalkeepers in the country: Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem

By Abdul Gani
Want to establish myself as one of the best goalkeepers in the country: Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem

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Guwahati, June 18: Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem of Manipur is just 21 and he is one of the best goalkeepers in India now. FC Goa custodian has become the first-ever Indian footballer to be named in the AFC Champions League Team of the tournament last year.

Dheeraj interacts with The Assam Tribune as he looks forward to yet another new season of ISL.

Some of the excerpts:

Assam Tribune: You have had a great outing with FC Goa so far. Even in the AFC Champions League, your performance was outstanding. Tell us something about your experience with the Gaurs.

Dheeraj: I joined FC Goa one and a half years ago, in January 2021. I've played over 30 games for Goa since then, including matches in the AFC Champions League and the title-winning Durand Cup last year. So far, my stint at FC Goa has been wonderful. I've benefited greatly from the game time and training that I've had here.

The ACL has been one of my best memories with the club to-date. I thought I did well. My stint with FC Goa also opened the doors to the Indian national team. While I'm yet to make my debut for the country, I'm sure that I'll get my chance soon if I continue doing well for my club.

AT: You went for a trial at Scottish club Motherwell FC and also you had the opportunity to train at AFC Bournemouth before signing for Kerala Blasters FC. How was the experience and also are you willing to play for some European clubs in near future?

Dheeraj: Training with the European clubs was a good experience. The level and intensity were a challenge that I really loved as it was higher than what one might be used to in India. Right now I am completely focussed on doing the best for FC Goa.

If the right opportunity knocks on my door, that is something any Indian player would look keenly – but right now it's not my first priority.

AT: How do you look forward to the next season, especially with the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic being over and fans back to the stadium?

Dheeraj: While we were aware that we missed the fans cheering us from the stands, we realised how badly we missed them only during the Durand Cup 2021 semifinals and final at Kolkata. We played those two games in front of a packed crowd and we fully remembered how influential their presence was.

That said, I'm excited to see the fans return this coming season. The fans in Goa are crazy about football. It's unfortunate that I have not had the opportunity to play in front of them yet since joining FC Goa and I really look forward to playing in front of them.

AT: Tell me about your experience on the relationship between the clubs and their fans in India.

Dheeraj: While the relationship between the fans and football teams in India is still in its growing phase, I think it is strong enough.

I'm sure that it will be visible quite clearly once the season begins, because COVID-19 has now taken a back seat and fans are being allowed to get back to the stadiums.

AT: You are just 21 now and you have been one of the best in the country. What are the things you would want to achieve in the next five years?

Dheeraj: Becoming a mainstay at FC Goa and winning titles such as the ISL, Durand Cup and Super Cup among others are one of my main objectives right now.

Apart from that, I would also like to break into the playing XI for India and become a regular for them as well. In the next five years, I hope to achieve all this and establish myself as one of the best goalkeepers in the country.

8. Since the U17 World Cup, you have been around. What are the changes you have witnessed in Indian football in the last five years?

Dheeraj: One visible change is how the players have become better. The education part of the game has gone up a real notch especially with the ISL coming in. Players know what to eat and how to take care of themselves and be a professional.

India playing in the FIFA U17 World Cup in 2017 have drawn more youngsters to the sport, so the number of footballers have increased and so has their quality. Leagues like the ISL, I-League, I-League Qualifiers and various state leagues have also been happening regularly, which has given more game time. All of this means welcome progress for Indian football.

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