Bhuvaneshwar: The Indian Super League (ISL) from its inaugural season has been a platform for young guns over the years. It’s no surprise, a fair amount of prodigies came to the spotlight over the years through this tournament with some even went on representing the national side.
Odisha FC custodian Arshdeep Singh is among the latest crop of players to join the big boys’ game back in 2019. The Chandigarh youngster started his youth career at the AIFF Elite Academy before an injury raised concerns about his future. However, a stint with Minerva Punjab completely turned his career around.
“I am forever grateful to (Ranjit) Bajaj paji for bringing me to his club when I had nowhere to go”, Arshdeep told Sportslight Media in an exclusive interview. “After suffering from jaundice and a hand fracture at the age of 18, I was in my home for like 6-7 months and I used to play for a local club in Punjab.
“That was the time when I thought everything is over for me but I never gave up and came for Minerva Punjab’s trials, who were participating in I-league 2nd Division at that time, and from there, my life changed,” he added.
The stint proved to be quite influential in Arshdeep’s career as the Punjab-lad grew further in his game before he was signed by Odisha FC ahead of the 2019-20 ISL season.
“The experience was amazing from being a club at 2nd Division to being I-league champions and then playing in AFC in just a period of 3-4 years. It was a roller coaster ride indeed and I learned a lot of things staying and playing at the club,” he said.
“I think it’s about self-belief and a lot of hard work,” Arshdeep said when asked about his attitude towards the game. “Moving to Odisha FC from Minerva Punjab was a very important step for me because that’s what every footballer in the country aims to be after playing in the I-league. It’s like one step forward to your dreams and I was very happy and excited when this move happened.”
Being a goalkeeper is more of a thankless job with even the thinnest of mistakes get heavily scrutinised. The 23-year-old Arshdeep also believes in keeping the correct mindset and having a positive approach towards the game.
“I think it’s about self-belief and a lot of hard work. You always have to believe in your abilities and work even harder when you’re not playing because you’ll always get your chance and when you get it you should be prepared as that’s the one chance you have been working so hard for and then it’s up to.
“All these things keep me going when I don’t get enough playing time and that’s what I always tell myself. It’s just that I always try to give my best for the team no matter the result or circumstances. I think as an individual I have done some good things and also made some mistakes which obviously I learn from and try not to do the same mistakes again,” he said.
The recently-concluded ISL was conducted in a bio-bubble with strict measures. Fans were also not allowed making it a very different environment for the players at the grounds. Asked about it, the youngster opened up about his feelings on this new normal.
“It was hard to stay in the bio-bubble for five months because you can’t meet your family and friends. You can’t go out for a change. But, I think we all managed it very well by keeping a very good atmosphere in the team and kept just one aim in our minds to give our best for the team and gain positive results.
“However, the season didn’t go as planned but I am pretty very sure that we will bounce back in the upcoming season. The energy that you feel when the fans are around and they cheer you seemed to be missing. I missed that part in the last season.
“Fans’ presence is important because it boosts the players and helps them perform even better. But, I would really like to express my gratitude to all the fans. They have been amazing and they have always been the most supportive even though we were not at our best,” said the goalkeeper.