It’s been nearly a year since the young goalkeeper made his last competitive appearance…
Dheeraj Singh recorded over 20 appearances in competitive football between 2017 and 2019, but has just one game to show for since 2020.
Having started in all three of India’s games in the 2017 U-17 World Cup that was held in India, he joined the Indian Arrows outfit in the I-League where kept a clean sheet in six matches before stepping into the Indian Super League (ISL) circuit in the 2018-19 season.
His impressive showing with Kerala Blasters in ISL season 5 made him the preferred choice when Derrick Pereira, now the technical director at FC Goa, was the Indian U-23 national team coach during the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers held in March 2019.
However, 13 games after being the first choice with the Blasters later, Dheeraj moved off course when he decided to join Kolkatan outfit ATK last season. He did win the ISL medal with the club but it came at the cost of just one game – when he started in the 2-2 draw against Bengaluru FC in the final league game of the season in February 2020.
As a result, Dheeraj has also been overlooked by Indian senior national team coach Igor Stimac after the 2022 World Cup qualification games against Afghanistan and Oman in November 2019. The former U-17 World Cupper’s name wasn’t in the India probables for the India camp that was to be held in March 2020 before the world was hit by the Coronavirus pandemic.
After ATK’s merger with Mohun Bagan, he signed a fresh deal with ATK Mohun Bagan for the 2020-21 ISL season but is yet to play a game, as other young prospects have been getting regular game time.
Dheeraj has since joined FC Goa in the January 2021 transfer window and was named in the matchday squad in the 1-1 draw against Kerala Blasters last weekend. With Nawaz falling out of favour after failing to reach an agreement to extend his stay with the Goan outfit, the opportunity perfectly befits 20-year-old Dheeraj who has signed a three-year deal at the club.
There are promising signs for the Manipuri goalkeeper given that the Goan outfit has previously placed their trust in young talent such as Nawaz and Saviour Gama who have put in impressive performances. However, he will have to first displace Naveen Kumar.