New Delhi: If his past exploits are anything to go by, India’s goalkeeping sensation Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem is used to setting the bar a little higher than usual. The shy boy from Manipur chose Scotland’s Motherwell FC over the Indian Arrows, keeping in complete sync with his decision of football over the Indian Army.
Accompanied by bagfuls of talent, a focused mind and a pocketful of hope, Dheeraj with his agent left India after the first week of February for Scotland. No one would possibly be happier than his maternal grandmother who bought him his first pair of football shoes. A cut above the rest whether in class or on the field of play, the AIFF Elite Academy product is determined to make his three week long trial period at Motherwell count.
“This is a situation we would dream off till recently and this is a rare chance for me. I need to give my best at every single opportunity to impress the coaches over here,” says Dheeraj, keeping matters simple and to the point.
The 17-year old is not only happy about his situation as a footballer, but also very grateful to his teammate and friend Shaun Bowers. The defensive duo drives to practice together regularly.
Just like the demands of his job, Dheeraj did not waste any time in joining the first team for practice, though he will not be able to play a competitive game till he turns 18. He is fast approaching the half way mark of his trial stint and has had a taste of the atmosphere at the home ground on a matchday and is aware that to continue, the hard yards are a must.
“I have always wanted to challenge myself as a player, and every day I need to work on my game to get better. Hard work is the only way that I will become a better player,” he outlines.
Alongside getting used to a more aggressive and technical style of play, Dheeraj is making his way through the biting cold, and not to mention the Scottish accent.
“The outfield players are better than what I have come across so far, and the pace of the game is much higher in comparison to the I-League. The infrastructure available here is also much better than what I was used to on a regular basis,” the goalkeeper notes.
“I have to be on my toes all the time.”
If the sport has not troubled him too much, the cold definitely has taken a toll on him.
“Not only is it cold, but it the winds are quite strong. When we practice outdoors I do find it difficult. The indoors facility is definitely much better as I feel more comfortable,” he says over the telephone after a practice session.
Even if the weather has been unkind to him, Dheeraj is quick to express his joy about his newest friends.
“The whole first team has been very nice and welcoming towards since the first day. Most of them are much older than me and treat me like a younger brother,” he gleefully says.
A big fan of the Arsenal custodian Petr Cech, Dheeraj, as explained by his agent, saw interest from more than one club after the FIFA U-17 World Cup, where he not only drew praise from Bhaichung Bhutia but also former England keeper David James.
“The thought of another team is not in my head currently. I have a short amount of time and I don’t want to deal with unnecessary pressure,” he shoots back when quizzed about other options.
Dheeraj maybe a shy person, but he understands the task on hand and is determined to ensure that the pocketful of hope and potential is not wasted.
If Dheeraj can impress at Motherwell that his abilities as a player is definitely more important than the market India represents, a thought echoed by the club’s board, then the heir to Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s throne has been unearthed and India’s last line of defense on the football field will be in safe hands.
After all, if he had chosen the army over football, his job would have continued to have been guarding his territory and knowledgeable heads are of the opinion he can be good at this if he wants to.