India captain Sunil Chhetri foresees a great future for India U-17 goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh, provided he acquires a work ethic and keeps his feet on the ground. The young custodian sought a career abroad following stunning performances at the FIFA U-17 World Cup held in India last year.
“He is definitely one of the players who did well for us in the U-17 World Cup and is somebody who has a great future. Working hard and keeping his head on shoulders is going to be paramount for Dheeraj. I just hope he does that,” Chhetri said of the Manipuri goalkeeper.
Dheeraj received a positive response from Scottish club Motherwell FC after trials, but work permit issues denied him the chance to play in Scotland. His India U-17 teammates played for the Indian Arrows in the I-League, but he left the side midway through the competition to seek a career away from India.
Replying to a query about the 17-year-old goalkeeper’s ambitions of a career bogged down at the first step, the Chhetri said, “I feel sad, because I know what you go through when on the brink of potential contract and it does not happen. It is not because of you as a player, but due to other things (India’s FIFA rankings). It is not nice. I know he is going to be sad, but (I hope he) keeps working hard.”
Chhetri had faced a similar situation over work permit difficulties when Premier League club Queen Park Rangers did not succeed in getting the Indian striker on contract then due to a technicality. At that point, the British government granted work permits to players only from non-EU countries ranking below 70 in FIFA rankings.
The Indian skipper hoped Dheeraj will keep improving and grab the next opportunity to play for a foreign club. “Chin up Dheeraj, you are going to get the opportunity. I spoke to Gurpreet Singh (India’s first choice custodian) and he said there is potential (in Dheeraj). I just hope he finds a way soon. The whole point for him is to get better and on that journey grab every opportunity he gets with both hands.”
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