On this day in the year 2000, Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem was born in Manipur. He was a football lover since he was a child, and unlike many children who dream of scoring the best goals, he dreamt of saving the dream goals. At the tender age of 16, he was part of the AIFF Elite Academy batch that was preparing for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup. After a praiseworthy performance at the World Cup, he caught the eye of the entire nation, and since then, he has fought his way through every challenge.
After the World Cup in 2017, he played for the Indian Arrows in the I-League. A team that focuses on developing young Indian players, all the players in the squad are from under the age of 23, and the club concentrates on developing them as elite players. Dheeraj made his debut for the arrows against Chennai City FC and even kept a clean sheet. After a small stint with the Arrows, he was signed by the Kerala Blasters. He was the first-choice goalkeeper under David James and impressed the fans again, but it was the Indian Super League this time.
After KBFC, he signed for ATK for the 19-20 season but only made one appearance for them in that entire year. After the merger of ATK and Mohun Bagan, he continued to be a part of the ATKMB squad but could only make it to the team's bench. He left ATK-MB in 2021 and joined FC Goa and since then has never looked back.
Dheeraj became the first-choice goalkeeper at Goa, made nine appearances for the team, and played an essential role in the team's run to the playoffs. Even though the team lost out to eventual winners Mumbai City FC, his performances in the AFC Champions League set all the spotlight on him. Dheeraj's performance in the ACL was probably one of the best performances by an Indian goalkeeper in a continental tournament. He made a whopping 26 saves in five matches to top the goalkeeping chart of the West Zone group stage. The Gaurs finished 3rd in their group and created history by scoring three points in the ACL.
Dheeraj, like his performances, has grown over the last three years. He looks more comfortable with the ball and has improved his ball distribution to his teammates. Apart from being a prolific shot-stopper, he seems more confident with his positioning during set pieces and anticipation of shots.
Not many 20-year-old goalkeepers from India have the experience of doing what Dheeraj has, and not many also have the performances he has. Wishing him all happiness on his 21st birthday, we hope his performances increase in leaps and bounds in the upcoming years.