Karanjit Singh: You are remembered for mistakes, not saves

A goalkeeper can have the high of producing a dozen acrobatic saves but making one mistake, at a crucial time of a match, can be a sobering experience, according to the 31-year-old India international.

Hailing from Hoshiarpur, Punjab, Karanjit has had a rollercoaster of a career so far. And the year 2011 stands out as one of his best.   -  R. Ragu

 

A goalkeeper can count on his fellow custodian to empathise with him when faced with severe criticism. So, when FC Goa's Laxmikant Kattimani was trolled on social media for a bad week between the sticks, especially after his gaffer Sergio Lobera anointed him the "best goalkeeper in the league", Chennaiyin FC's Karanjit Singh jumped to his colleague’s defence.

"I think it is very difficult because you may follow football but the goalkeeper position is very difficult. If you look at the match he made two-three very good saves before the mistake. People miss out on that and laugh at that miss," Karanjit told Sportstar.

A goalkeeper can have the high of producing a dozen acrobatic saves but making one mistake, at a crucial time of a match, can be a sobering experience, according to the 31-year-old India international. "I myself have made mistakes. No goalkeeper wants to concede goals. If I make a similar mistake tomorrow then it will put me under pressure. Even world no. 1 (goalkeeper) Manuel Neuer makes mistakes."

Peak

Hailing from Hoshiarpur, Punjab, Karanjit has had a rollercoaster of a career so far. And the year 2011 stands out as one of his best.

After signing for Salgaocar, he helped the side to its only I-League title win in its history. He also made his national team debut when he was hauled in as a substitute in place for the red-carded Subrata Pal and ended on the side of a 3-0 defeat. But the year only got better for Karanjit as he played a starring role in India's 2011 SAFF cup win.

Having signed for Chennaiyin in 2015, initially on loan, Karanjit became the first-choice 'keeper in 2016 when it finished a lowly seventh. CFC also conceded 25 goals as its title defence never took off.

While he was satisfied on a personal front, he felt work needs to be done over the team's performance. "Last 10 minutes we conceded a lot of goals. So that's why we didn't qualify for the playoff. This year we are doing more work on that and talking more with each other during games. We need to concentrate for 90 minutes of the game irrespective of the scoreline," said the 2015 ISL winner.

India's current No. 1 Gurpreet Singh Sandhu recently returned to India from a three-season spell with Norwegian football club Stabaek, where he got a taste of top-level competition in the form of the Europa League.

Difficult start

On the other hand, Karanjit made a late foray into professional football. He started playing the sport at 15, and only towards the end of his schooling days did he make a mark. The 'keeper was spotted by former national coach Sukhwinder Singh in 2004 at a local tournament and was subsequently joined JCT.  It wasn't easy for him as he didn't have a goalkeeping coach at his disposal, with Karanjit even resorting to self-help during his seven-year stint.

"That is the time (stage of a player's career) players learn many things. I learned my position by watching YouTube clips and I have one senior player with whom I discussed. and watched matches as to where I did wrong," he said.

Karanjit acknowledges the professionalism instilled by the ISL clubs and how it will help Indian football going forward. "During my time (Salgaocar FC), only three or four I-League clubs had goalkeeping coach. My time in Salgaocar helped me get to where I am today. There I won the I-League, played in Durand Cup, Federation Cup and played for the national team.

“And when I joined Chennaiyin on loan (in 2015), I learned a lot of things. We have Tony Warner, who was with Liverpool (academy graduate) and other clubs," revealed Karanjit, who turned out for Chennai City FC in the I-League last season.

Now 31, Karanjit last played for India in a goalless draw against Nepal in 2015. He harbours hopes of adding to his 17 caps through his performances in ISL. "It is an amazing feeling. I still remember my debut in 2011 in the World Cup qualifier. I am targeting to get back in the national team again," he said.

But his position is stocked with established goalkeepers and emerging talent among the likes of Gurpreet, Subrata and Amrinder Singh. "Right now six or seven goalkeepers are of insane level in the national team. It's not difficult but its tough and I need to do better."