By Shraishth Jain,
AIFF Media Team
NEW DELHI: Barely 23, Goalkeeper Kamaljit Singh is the youngest of the three goalkeepers in the Blue Tigers squad. While he is yet to make his senior team debut, his breakthrough season with FC Pune City in the Hero Indian Super League makes him confident for the challenge.
“My next job is to seal a place in the final list of 23 for the forthcoming Hero Intercontinental Cup,” Kamaljit expressed. The competition will see defending champions India take on Asian rivals Tajikistan, DPR Korea and Syria at the EKA Arena, Ahmedabad, and Kamaljit felt “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. “I have heard the stadium is very good. I'm looking forward to seeing it for myself too,” he exclaimed.
'GURPREET AND AMRINDER ARE MY ELDER BROTHERS'
With Igor Stimac having been appointed as the Head Coach of the Indian Senior National Team’s team, Kamaljit feels that there is "a lot of competition" within the team.
Talking 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.”
"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 stated.
The Indian shot-stoppers were trained by Croatian Tomislav Rogic at the King's Cup and its preparatory camp in Delhi, and according to Kamaljit, he 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. "He's quite real. 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. There is a lot of competition for places, something which the coach encourages. I feel that I have improved a lot ever since I became a part of the group. Everyone wants to play and I hope to work towards it."
‘AIFF ACADEMY WAS A GREAT PLATFORM’
“The start, however, was different as I had initially started as a defender,” smiled Kamaljit. “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," he quipped.
"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," Kamaljit smiled again. “It was only after some time that my coaches asked me to start training as a goalkeeper.”
The goalkeeper took his first strides at the AIFF Academy in Goa, which he hailed as the "perfect platform" for his development.
"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,” he narrated. “I owe a lot to the Academy. In fact, I signed my first team contract from the Academy.”
“The Academy was the perfect platform for me, and for all the players who have come through the Academy ranks. It set the base for all of us.”
The shot-stopper went on to represent the country at U-14 and U-16 level, but suffered an injury setback prior to joining the U-19 Team. However, he fought his way back and then was part of the Indian teams at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, and the 2016 South Asian Games in Guwahati.
He was then part of the Blue Tigers squad for the SAFF Championship held in Dhaka in 2017, his first senior team call-up.