FIFA U17 World Cup: India star Dheeraj Singh's future to be decided next week
What does the future hold for India's hottest prospect?
What's the story?
One of the best goalkeepers of the FIFA U17 World Cup, Dheeraj Singh's future would be decided next week in a meeting arranged by the AIFF.
The All India Football Federation has announced that it has signed deals with 12 India U17 players. The governing body has offered three-year contracts to all the 21 U17 players in a bid to form the team which will play in the I-League from the forthcoming season. Dheeraj might fall into this category.
AIFF general secretary Kushal Das has said that "at least 10-12 players have signed the deal.if the rest don't want to join side they are free to join any club".
Many fans were hoping that Dheeraj would get a chance in Europe and scouting reports also suggested the chances of him moving to European clubs.
In case you didn't know...
This was the first time ever that a team representing India participated in the finals of a FIFA-organised world tournament, albeit the U17 World Cup
Many offers from foreign clubs were reported for some players including the flamboyant goalkeeper Dheeraj and some European clubs were also interested in players like Sanjeev Stalin, Anwar Ali and Komal Thatal.
The main attraction of the FIFA U17 World Cup was that Indians would be able to showcase their talent on the international stage and get contracts from top-tier clubs in the world.
The heart of the matter
The 17-year-old goalkeeper from Manipur has been touted as India's "find of the tournament" by former footballer Bhaichung Bhutia.
With his performances, Dheeraj caught the attention of international scouts representing clubs in Europe and around the world, according to India's goalkeeping coach Paolo Grilo.
The AIFF has been planning to make an I-League team of its own, including the India U17 players selected for the FIFA U17 World Cup to continue the development of the players as part of the same core group. Some players have asked time to consider this offer.
But an AIFF official said that: “We are aware of the interest shown by the scouts and have spoken to Dheeraj about it. The most important thing is to ensure the interest is genuine and not because of commercial reasons.”
Next week, Dheeraj is likely to meet senior AIFF officials along with his parents and coach Luis Norton de Matos. They will again have to take a final decision for the future of Dheeraj whether he would play in Europe or remain in India next week. It is believed the decision will be based solely on the type of offer he has in his hand. The other Manipur-based players have reached Manipur.
The AIFF will be one of the key parties to this since Dheeraj is an AIFF Academy product and is on the verge of signing a three-year deal with the federation to play in the I-League next season.
The U17 team's next challenge is the AFC U19 Championship 2018 qualifiers, which will start in Saudi Arabia on November 4th. If India can make the AFC Championship, which will be held in Indonesia next year, they will get a shot at a 2019 U20 World Cup berth as the top four teams will qualify directly.
The rest of the players have asked for more time to consider their options. Many scouting reports have come out for best U17 goalkeeper of India. Dheeraj's future would be determined next week during the meeting between the AIFF and his parents
This is a protective move by the AIFF which could turn out to be a wrong one for Indian football, as we all know training in 2nd division European clubs would be better than playing in the bog-standard I-League.
The training and technical attributes which they will learn at foreign clubs would be vital for Indian football. Remember one Bale is enough to change the future of a footballing nation. As said by the Portuguese goalkeeping coach Grilo, if Dheeraj falls into the Indian footballing methodology, he would not be able to realize his full potential.