On Thursday evening, Scottish Premiership club Motherwell FC confirmed that India’s Under-17 goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem had started his trial with the club and was straight into training with the team.
The football club called the 17-year-old “a standout” at last year’s Fifa U-17 World Cup and tweeted a photo of him in Scotland.
This news was widely received with a lot of praise on social media as Indians celebrated the rare occurrence of a countryman making it to a reputed European club. Motherwell FC are currently sixth in the Scottish Premiership rankings.
Stevie Grieve, who is a football coach and analyst, best known for being the Champions League TV presenter in India, also hailed the move on Twitter.
He added that this was move would help the club gain a market in India as well. This thought was shared, in various forms, by a lot of people. However, it raised quite a few questions from Indian football fans who wondered whether the move was more about getting an audience base in India, more than any other reason.
However, Alan Burrows, the Chief Operating Officer and Director at Motherwell FC was quick to respond saying that Dheeraj was picked for his ability alone. “If we try to sign him, it’ll be because we believe he’s good enough & see potential in him to develop. Anything additional is merely a by-product - it’s only about how good a goalkeeper he is,” he said in response to one user.
He followed it up with another tweet saying the youngster had a good start.
Dheeraj, who quit Indian Arrows, the All India Football Federation’s developmental squad playing in the I- League, was among India’s best performers at the World Cup. There were talks of foreign clubs being interested in his services and he went for trial soon after his contract came to an end in 2017.
Even if there were wider marketing and commercial interests in play in the trial, it is evident that a stint in the Scottish league will help the teenager who will turn 18 this year and only then can get an official transfer.
Here’s a glimpse of Dheeraj’s training: