Chhetri urges Dheeraj to work hard

Indian goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh was denied an opportunity to play for Scottish club Motherwell FC due to work permit issues and Indian captain Sunil Chhetri has urged the youngster to continue to work hard.

Dheeraj Singh was among the best performers in the Indian team in last year's FIFA U-17 World Cup.   -  PTI

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.”