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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Dheeraj Catches Eye of Foreign Scouts After Stunning Show

The hero of India’s U-17 football team was their last line of defence - Dheeraj Moirangthem, a boy who did not fancy an audience, but mesmerised almost 50,000 people at every chance he got with a string of outstanding saves during his three outings at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup.

News18 Sports

Updated:October 14, 2017, 1:58 PM IST
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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Dheeraj Catches Eye of Foreign Scouts After Stunning Show
Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem of India. (Image: FIFA)
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The hero of India’s U-17 football team was their last line of defence - Dheeraj Moirangthem, a boy who did not fancy an audience, but mesmerised almost 50,000 people at every chance he got with a string of outstanding saves during his three outings at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup.

Not only did Dheeraj have the national capital wanting more, but he also caught the watchful eyes more than a few scouts from top European clubs according to the team’s Portuguese goalkeeping coach Paolo Grilo – who joined the setup very recently.

India’s campaign ended on Thursday without a single to point from three matches after they were blanked 4-0 by the African powerhouse Ghana. The shot-stopper, who is fondly called India’s Neuer by the Indian football team’s social media handle, has been called the ‘find of the tournament’ by former India captain Baichung Bhutia. His shot-stopping ability, positioning and awareness have been appreciated by several current and former players as well as rival team coaches.

After the first game, USA coach John Hackworth told the waiting media, “Dheeraj made several saves in the opening 20 minutes. He was exceptional on the night.”

The Portugese goalkeeping coach, told a leading daily recently, that he is aware of the interest shown in Dheeraj by foreign clubs. “One hundred percent there are people from many teams in Europe and around the world who are looking at him. I can’t tell you what the team is,” he said on Friday. “If he returns to the methodology of training in India, then he won’t improve. Dheeraj has the potential to play in Europe.”

Once the World Cup campaign ended, the team left New Delhi for a much needed break, but Dheeraj who was seen throwing his gloves into the stands before posing for pictures after the Ghana match, was discussing his future with AIFF officials. The official said Dheeraj will consult his family during the three-day break given to the players and they will then meet next week to see if there are any ‘genuine interested parties’.

The AIFF will have a say in Dheeraj’s future, because he is a product of the AIFF Elite Academy and is on the verge of signing of a two-year deal with the federation to play in the I-League.

“We are aware of the interest shown by the scouts and have spoken to Dheeraj about it. The most important thing is to ensure the interest is genuine and not because of commercial reasons,” the AIFF official said.

Dheeraj who will take time off first like the rest of the team, is likely to meet senior AIFF officials next week along with his parents and coach Luis Norton de Matos to map out the future course of action.

The team, meanwhile, will be elevated to the under-19 level immediately. The players have been given a three-day break and will return to Delhi on October 17, when they will begin a fresh camp for the under-19 Asian Championship qualifiers. Matos and his assistant Hugo Martins will be joined by current under-19 coach Floyd Pinto at the camp, which will last for one week before the team travels to Qatar on October 25.

On the day of the under-17 World Cup final – October 28 – India will play a friendly with Qatar under-19 and then proceed to Saudi Arabia for the qualifiers.

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| Edited by: Abhimanyu Sen
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