New Delhi, Feb 6 (IANS) Amrinder Singh has been a mainstay between the sticks for Mumbai City, whose fans rarely miss an opportunity on social media to make a case for him to be India’s number one goalkeeper whenever Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has a bad day. It is a situation that a number of great goalkeepers have found themselves in around the world — where they are a regular for their respective clubs and considered among the best in the world, but find themselves on the bench for their international sides.
Amrinder however says that neither does he think of himself as a backup keeper in the run-up to an international match, nor do he and Sandhu see each other as rivals.
“I never think that I am the backup goalkeeper and prepare for every match hoping to do my best,” Amrinder told IANS. “I do want Gurpreet to do well too and we always help each other improve on all the little mistakes that crop up during training. I never go into a match thinking that I have to sit outside and keep working hard so as to ensure that I stay in contention for a starting spot,” he said.
Additionally, he feels that him keeping up that attitude will also keep Sandhu on his toes. “Even Gurpreet should not feel like he is the only person working hard. There is someone behind him that who is working just as much. I think it is good for both of us that we work as hard as possible,” he said.
Amrinder’s senior professional career started at the age of 18 with the erstwhile Pune FC. He admits that he was quite lucky to have started playing for a senior club side despite having made the switch to goalkeeper only three years prior to that.
He said he was around 16 years old when he started playing as a goalkeeper in Punjab, before which he played all the way at the other end of the pitch as a striker. “I was playing for an U-17 team that I was playing and my coach Yarvinder Singh asked me to play once as a goalkeeper. My main aim at the time was to never sit out a match and be in the playing XI as much as possible.
“By the time I joined Pune I had about three years experience as a goalkeeper. I feel I am very lucky that with just three years of experience I managed to break into a professional club.”
Goalkeepers are expected to be comfortable with the ball on their feet and Amrinder feels that playing as striker in his teenage has helped him on that front.
“Of course it helped. I had to use my feet a lot as a striker, it gives me confidence on my footwork now. I feel that makes me a better goalkeeper. Today goalkeepers are required to be good with their feet also and so it has certainly helped me in my career,” he said.
Amrinder first left Pune in the 2015/16 season on a loan move to Bengaluru FC, the team that had made waves a season ago by winning the I-League in their debut season. That year, he was named the best goalkeeper in the league as Bengaluru won their second title and the club also reached the quarter final of the AFC Cup. The move was made permanent next season, in which they finished only fourth but became the first Indian team to qualify for the final of the AFC Cup, where they lost to Iraq’s Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya.
Amrinder said that among other things, picking the brains of Bengaluru and India’s talismanic skipper Sunil Chhetri was a highlight of his time at the club.
“My time at Bengaluru was very good for me,” he said. “Sunil bhai was there, he is one of the greatest strikers of all time and I used to interact a lot with him. He spoke with me a lot in understanding how a striker thinks in one on one situations or when they take long shots and so on. I was with a good team there and I have some great memories with them,” he said.
For now, he is happy with Mumbai City FC, who are in smack in the middle of a race to the last playoff spot in the ongoing season of the Indian Super League (ISL). “There is a real family atmosphere around the team whenever we train,” says Amrinder about Mumbai.
Placed fourth, they have three matches left in the league stage, one of which is against Chennaiyin FC who are two points behind them in the fifth position.
“We are ready for the upcoming games. We performed very well in our previous match and so we have an advantage that two of these three games are home matches. We are all working hard in training. There is a good atmosphere in the team,” he said.
(Rohit Mundayur can be contacted on email@example.com)