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ISL: Why Manvir Singh needs to become India’s best goal poacher

ISL: Why Manvir Singh needs to become India’s best goal poacher


Published: 27 July 2020 10:41 AM GMT

How would you describe Manvir Singh? An energetic footballer with an appetite for hard work and endeavour, right? Someone who can play anywhere across the front three? Check. He is the tireless striker who does not score; the one that sacrifices, sometimes to his detriment, for the good of the team.

At FC Goa, he was always used as a supplement to Ferran Corominas, Indian Super League’s (ISL) all time top scorer. He would be used as the target man, or sometimes just as the decoy, who would hold up the ball, tussle with the defenders, draw them away and make space for Coro to fire into the net.

But next season brings changes. A new season always comes with new promise — given the coronavirus pandemic allows the football season to start as planned — and Manvir is raring to go.

“I have definitely missed football in this lockdown. The preseason would have started by now if the situation was normal like every year,” he tells The Bridge.

“Nevertheless, I have continued with my normal basic training as the situation was never so bad in my village. I did my practice sessions and also played a few matches. Now, I am eager to start with my preseason training…training with the club is completely different. I am hoping that things get back to normal soon and we can prepare for the upcoming season.”


Speaking about his time in Goa, Manvir highlighted why Sergio Lobera is a big hit in Indian football and why every young, domestic player wants to work with him. “Lobera is probably the best coach I have played under,” he says.

“He always tries to play with possession and that’s the reason most Indian players like to play under him, he helps players to develop and urges them to play with the ball. I personally learned a lot of things from him and he always gave me the confidence to do well on the ground.”

As a Number 9, one is always judged on the number of goals he has scored. And in this case, Manvir does not have a lot to show for. So far, in the ISL, the 24-year-old has scored only three times in 47 appearances and assisted once.

Many would be quick to put the blame elsewhere — ‘I was played out of position’, ‘the coach never listened to me’, ‘I didn’t get a lot of chances’ — there are so many excuses one could give. But not Manvir.

“If you play in one particular position in the ISL for eight months straight and after that you come to the national team where you are made to play a different position, it will be hard for you to bring out your best. Because you have not played that position for the last eight month,” he explains.

Manvir Singh Manvir celebrates a goal (Source: ISL)

“Playing in your natural position always gives you a lot of confidence. There is always match pressure, playing in one’s position makes you comfortable. But playing for the team helps a player to develop his composure. If anything, I think playing in different positions at Goa has helped me a lot because I can easily fit anywhere in any team, be in the national team or club.”

Towards the start of the 2019-20 campaign, it felt he would finally get going and have a free-scoring season. He started the first two games, then came off the bench in the third to head in a late equaliser in Guwahati against NorthEast United FC. Three games later, he was at it again. Hyderabad had done well to contain Goa's attackers before Manvir shrugged off his marker, jumped the highest to meet Brandon Fernandes’ delivery from the corner and nodded in the winner.

Goals of this ilk need to come with frequent regularity. That’s what any team expects from its forward. At any ISL club, the challenge will be to come off the bench as a part of the team’s Plan B when things are not going according to plan and score goals and at ATK Mohun Bagan, the team Manvir is expected to join ahead of next season, is one of the most demanding of the lot. The Indian national team also needs someone to score goals, someone who can follow up on Sunil Chhetri’s act — can Manvir polish his natural inclinations and top the statistics next season?

The man in question, though, isn’t too perturbed by the numbers. “My priority at this moment is to do well in training sessions and grab as much game time as possible. I want to be better than last season and make a place for myself in the team and I am working towards that,” Manvir says before signing off.

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