Just five minutes into India's first-ever game in a FIFA event in 2017, Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem stood his ground to make his favorite save to date as he took that shot on his chest against the USA. It was indeed a rare sight in the art of goalkeeping which brought the focus of the Indian masses on him.
Dheeraj went on to produce numerous saves which were cheered by the crowd every time. Four years since that, the Manipur boy is the man between the sticks for Indian Super League side FC Goa now and continues to impress us with his quick dives and positioning.
Reflecting on personal achievements
Reflecting on the same and what he took away from the run in 2021, Dheeraj revealed, "We(FC Goa) had a very good pre-season starting with Durand cup and then call-up for the senior national team for SAFF championship happened, which we won, followed by the U-23 qualifiers. During the U-23 qualifiers, we put up a very strong performance, that's the biggest takeaway."
On keeping up with the momentum
On comparison with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu
Although Dheeraj, personally, doesn't like when people put him up in that same bracket. The humble man that he is, insists that Gurpreet is his inspiration and he is far away from that prospect. He said, "Every time I tell everyone not to hype me up in that way because I'm really young and getting called for the first team is a big achievement."
"For me being a young guy, young player, 21 years old, I have a lot of years ahead to work on. He is one of the best keepers in India."
It is quite understandable for players of his age to feel that extra pressure when they are compared to their idol. Surprisingly, he was calm about it and maintained that he doesn't let it impact his game. He explained, "No, it's not kind of pressure, but as a player you need to keep calm and perform. And, for me as a player, I don't want to keep any reference. So I just want to do the basic things and do well for myself and for the team. And let's see."
FC Goa and the style of play
We all know how possession-based football has become a brand of the Gaurs and regardless of their head coaches over the years, it has remained on the same horizon. One thing which even Juan Ferrando wanted Dheeraj to work on was his comfortability on the ball.
However, Dheeraj mentioned that he very well spotted that and has been working on it since. He said, "Everyone knows that we play quite attractive football and we play from the backside and it's very important for a goalkeeper to stay calm with the feet and give those beautiful passes."
"That's what I struggled a bit in the last season, but I'm working on it and that's the area I think I have to improve and I'm working on it and also have to improve in the crossing and elbow so that I can help the team in a difficult situation inside the box."
If you were to go around the state, you will find FC Goa fans in huge numbers who would love to talk about their dominance in the league stage, them over-powering other teams, and style of play. But there is an asterisk. A troubling one is that they are yet to lift the title! And Dheeraj is no different. When mentioned this very thing, he explained the importance of that goal. Although he slightly did mention how a stellar transfer window has made their task difficult, at least on paper.
"I think this season is going to be a very tough one because I feel every side has a very strong team. And as you know, in ISL, anyone can beat any team at any time. So we should be prepared very well for every kind of game, there is no big or small game in the league. We need to put up a very strong performance as individuals. And, we want to win the game and also want to win the trophy."
He continued, "Since the start of the ISL, I've been noticing that FC Goa is the only team that had been performing consistently since the start. The only thing that is missing is the trophy. So hopefully we're looking for it in this coming season."
What lies ahead for Dheeraj?
"It's not going to be easy. It's going to be one of the toughest tasks. I want to win trophies. Win matches every single day and that's my objective," Dheeraj Singh concluded.
The Gaurs are set to face the defending champions Mumbai City FC on November 22.