Defender-turned-goalkeeper Kamaljit aims to seal his spot in India's squad for Intercontinental Cup

Goalkeeper Kamaljit Singh is yet to make his India senior football team debut, but after a breakthrough season with FC Pune City in the Indian Super League, the 23-year old now aims to make it to India's squad for the Intercontinental Cup.

Kamaljith Singh has been playing for FC Pune City since 2017.   -  Special Arrangement

At 23, Kamaljit Singh is the youngest of the three goalkeepers in the Indian football squad for the upcoming Intercontinental Cup 2019, and is eager to make his senior team debut. In fact, Kamaljit had begun his football career as a defender and turned to goalkeeping much later.

After a breakthrough season with FC Pune City in the Indian Super League, which saw him make 59 saves in 14 matches, he feels he is ready to seal his spot in the national team. “My next job is to seal a place in the final list of 23 for the forthcoming Intercontinental Cup,” Kamaljit said.

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The competition will see defending champion India take on Asian rivals Tajikistan, DPR Korea and Syria at the EKA Arena in Ahmedabad.  Kamaljit feels the tournament is a great opportunity to increase the sport's popularity in Gujarat. "We are focused on winning the tournament," he said. "We will give our 100% and I'm sure that if we give a good performance, more and more fans will come to the stadium to cheer,” he said.

Kamaljit took his first strides at the AIFF academy in Goa, which he hailed as the "perfect platform" for his development. “The start, however, was different as I had initially started as a defender,” he said. “I used to play a bit of football in school. I was 10 or 11 when my parents saw an advertisement in the newspaper about trials for a local academy -- Sant Baba Hazara Singh Football Academy -- and took me there."

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India lost to Curacao and beat Thailand in the King's Cup, earlier in June.   -  AIFF Media

"I got to know that they were looking for a defender. I didn't know how to play well at that time, but I somehow got selected as a centre-back. It was only after some time that my coaches asked me to start training as a goalkeeper,” he recalled.

"I trained at the AIFF academy for three-and-a-half years. That was a great experience for me. I got to learn and gain so much. I owe a lot to the academy. In fact, I signed my first team contract from the academy,” he said.

'Gurpreet and Amrinder are my elder brothers'

In May, former Croatia international Igor Stimac was appointed the head coach of the Indian football team and the shot-stopper said there is "a lot of competition" within the team now.

Speaking about his relationship with the other two goalkeepers who were part of the King’s Cup squad – Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Amrinder Singh – Kamaljit referred to them as his "elder brothers.”

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"Off the field, both Gurpreet and Amrinder are like my elder brothers. I refer to them as 'paaji.' The three of us have a great relationship. Off the pitch we gel well, and on the pitch, we work hard and push each other to the limit," he said.

The Indian keepers were trained by Croatian Tomislav Rogic at the preparatory camp leading to the King's cup in Delhi. According to Kamaljit, Rogic has helped them improve considerably in the first few weeks itself.

"He's a great coach, the best I have played under so far," he said. "If we do something wrong, he tells us right away. I feel we have improved a lot under his guidance and I'm sure he will help us reach the next level."

"I have just made my way into the senior team and my focus for now is pushing myself as much as possible, and keeping my place in the squad," he added.

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