AFC Champions League 2021: 10 things you need to know about Dheeraj Singh
Ahead of FC Goa's penultimate AFC Champions League group stage clash against Al-Rayyan SC, we take a look at their young shot-stopper Dheeraj Singh.
After a steady start to their AFC Champions League (ACL) campaign, FC Goa have seemingly hit a roadblock. A 2-1 defeat at the hands of Persepolis FC and an even bigger 4-0 loss against the same opponents later, the Gaurs find themselves with just 2 points from 4 games. However, they still have a chance to progress to the next round but for that they will need to beat both Al Wahda and Al-Rayyan in consecutive games. To make that possible, one name needs to be a permanent fixture in the Goa team list from here on and that is of 20-year-old goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem. After three stupendous performances in the first three games, he became the talk of the town and rightly so. Here is all that you need to know about the youngster.
Where is he from?
Dheeraj is from the small town of Moirang in the Bishnupur district of Manipur.
How was he introduced to football?
A bright student in class, Dheeraj took a liking to science and math in school and although he preferred the solitude of the badminton court when young, his coach at local club Amofa FC got him into football after identifying his potential, much to the discontentment of his parents.
Which has been his biggest moment of reckoning so far?
Dheeraj has been a part of the AIFF Elite Academy batch which was groomed and prepared ahead of the 2017 U17 World Cup held in India. There, Dheeraj was the standout Indian player as he started all of the group stage games and impressed one and all.
How has his domestic career been so far?
After the U17 World Cup, Dheeraj joined AIFF's developmental side Indian Arrows before signing for Indian Super League (ISL) outfit Kerala Blasters. A spell at ATK/ATK Mohun Bagan followed thereafter ahead of a switch to FC Goa in January this year. He has since started most of the games for the Gaurs in the ISL and the ACL.
How has his junior international career been so far?
Besides being the first-choice goalkeeper during the U17 World Cup, the Manipuri lad has also featured in India's national U23 side for whom he debuted against Qatar in a preparatory match for the 2019 AFC U23 Championship qualifiers.
Has he appeared for trials at a foreign club?
Yes, in early 2018, he went to attend trials at Scottish Premiership side Motherwell FC and also trained with then English Premier League outfit AFC Bournemouth.
How is his ISL record like?
The youngster has kept 6 clean sheets in 23 ISL matches spread over three seasons. He has a save percentage of 60.24% and a passing accuracy of 63.26%, both creditable figures.
What are some of his key strengths and weaknesses?
His height and reach enable him to cover the length and breadth of the goal quite easily. Besides, he is an extremely good shot-stopper from close range. His decision making in terms of when to come out during opposition set-pieces is something that he can improve on.
What key statistic does he top in the ACL this season?
Although this does not make good reading for the FC Goa defenders but till matchday 3, Dheeraj had the most number of saves (15) and clean sheets (2) in the entire competition.
What are some of his other achievements?
Recently, he bagged an endorsement deal with PUMA becoming one of the few Indian footballers to have a deal with a premier sport apparel brand. During his stay at Kerala Blasters, then Tuskers coach David James also credited him to be one of the, if not the, best young goalkeepers in the country.