At the age of 21, Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem has proved himself to be one of the best in the business in India. The FG Goa goalkeeper from Manipur was even named in the AFC Champions League Team of the tournament last year. And he is the first Indian footballer to feature on the list.
Now Dheeraj wants to be a regular in the playing 11 of the Blue Tigers and to win trophies for his country and club.
“To become a mainstay at FC Goa and winning titles such as the ISL, Durand Cup and Super Cup among others is one of my main objectives right now,” Dheeraj said in an interview as he looks forward to yet another new session of ISL.
“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.”
Dheeraj was part of India’s squad for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup and he was a standout performer for India at the tournament.
Thereafter Dheeraj had a trial at Scottish club Motherwell FC, after which he trained at AFC Bournemouth before signing for Kerala Blasters FC leading up to the 2018-19 season. He moved to ATK FC for the 2019-20 season and won the ISL trophy with them.
And after that in 2020-21, he joined the Gaurs.
“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,” Dheeraj recalled.
If he is willing to go abroad?
“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. Right now I am completely focussed on doing the best for FC Goa,” Dheeraj cleared the air.
After two years, the fans are being allowed inside the stadiums across the country and Dheeraj is all excited to play in front of roaring fans.
“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,” he said.
“I’m excited to see the fans return this coming season. The fans in Goa are crazy about football. I really look forward to playing in front of them.”
Dheeraj is one of the youngsters who have emerged from the U17 World Cup. And he has really proved himself over the years.
Now, looking back, Dheeraj feels there have been several visible changes in the Indian football scenario.
“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,” Dheeraj opined.
“India playing in the FIFA U17 World Cup in 2017 has drawn more youngsters to the sport, so the number of footballers has 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.”