Dheeraj’s Euro journey begins from Wednesday


PANAJI: Dheeraj Singh, India’s goalkeeper at the Fifa U-17 World Cup, will start his trial with Motherwell FC from Thursday with the Scottish Premiership club making him an integral part.
Motherwell FC have been tracking Dheeraj even before the Fifa U-17 World Cup in India last year and the club’s interest in the goalkeeper grew manifold after his impressive showing at the tournament.
Dheeraj is leaving for Scotland early on Wednesday and said he was both nervous and excited.
“You can say I am nervously excited,” Dheeraj told TOI before boarding a flight from Imphal to Mumbai where he will be joined by his agent Anuj Kichlu from The Football Edge.
“I don’t know whether I will eventually make the cut but this is an opportunity for me to test myself against the best and see where I stand. I feel confident that I will measure up to the challenge. I feel good about this trial and I promise to give my best,” said Dheeraj, who handpicked the offer from Motherwell ahead of clubs in Australia, Canada and Spain (second division).
His trial in Motherwell is expected to be for three weeks after which the club will take a call whether the young goalkeeper needs more time to adjust to the conditions.
“He will train with the first team. Motherwell have a small (first-team) squad and Dheeraj will be presented with an official team jersey with a number,” said Kichlu.
Even if Motherwell FC coaches are impressed with Dheeraj’s ability under the bar, the India goalkeeper can obtain an international transfer only after he turns 18 in July this year.
Dheeraj quit Indian Arrows, the All India Football Federation’s developmental squad playing in the I-League, after the end of his contract on December 31, 2017. But while Portuguese coach Luis Norton de Matos has criticised his decision insisting “Dheeraj is not ready to play in Europe,” the goalkeeper has been encouraged by his training stint under David James at Kerala Blasters.
“The coach (David James) has been very helpful and encouraging. I’ve learnt quite a few things and I admire him a lot. It’s been good training here,” said Dheeraj, who had agreed to extend his contract with Indian Arrows till the end of season but AIFF wanted him to ink a three-year deal.
James, the former England goalkeeper and now coach at Kerala Blasters, liked what he saw of Dheeraj during training and wanted to make him Kerala’s first choice goalkeeper in the Indian Super League (ISL). The AIFF, however, didn’t provide him with the necessary permission to make the move although they made an exception for U-17 World Cup winger Komal Thatal, whose name didn’t figure in the list of 25 players which clubs were barred from signing.