Odisha FC goalkeeper Kamaljit Singh, in an exclusive interview with SportsCafe, has asserted that having an experienced coaching team under Stuart Baxter is a plus point for the team as compared to others. He also spoke about the team composition and target for the ongoing ISL season in Goa.`
After a defeat in the first game, Odisha FC finally managed to open their account in the second game which ended in a draw against neighbouring side Jamshedpur FC. The team performed well in the second half and after conceding two goals in the first, they bounced back to level the scoresheet before the final whistle, and 24-year-old Kamaljit Singh was the man-in-charge of the goal post for the Bhubaneswar-based side.
Kamaljit, who was brought in by OFC from Hyderabad FC in the offseason this year, has stressed the fact that having an experienced coaching team under head coach Stuart Baxter is a great thing for the club. Apart from the former South African National Team manager, OFC also has the services of former Arsenal goalkeeping coach Gerry Peyton as assistant coach and former India National Team coach Rogerio Ramos as the goalkeeping coach for the seventh season of the League.
“Coach Baxter is an experienced man and understands the game really well. He is well aware of Indian football now. He knows how to deal with different players and understands each one of us. He is responsible in getting the best out from us. A knowledgeable and experienced coach like him makes us a different team altogether,” Kamaljit told SporsCafe.
“Both of them (Gerry Peyton and Rogerio Ramos) are absolutely amazing and great coaches. Coach Gerry has been a top-level coach globally and I have attended camps under Ramos earlier in India as well. Both of them are top-level coaches with a huge amount of experience. We are learning a lot from both of them. Gerry has been a part of the Premier League teams and Ramos knows and understands a lot about the Indian goalkeepers because he has been here for more than five years. Their presence is a great help for us and is a plus point for our side as compared to other clubs.”
OFC have four goalkeepers in their squad, with Kamaljit, Arshdeep Singh, Ravi Kumar and Odia youngster Ankit Bhuyan, and the competetion for the spot is extremely high. Speaking about the custodians in the club, 24-year-old Kamaljit explained, “All our goalkeepers are very good. All of us are young and there is very good and healthy competition among us. We have very good bonding and try to lift each other’s spirit. We try and do well by looking at each other which is very good. We are giving 100% on the field and off the field, we are like brothers.”
When asked about the team composition for the ongoing season, he replied, “Ours’s a young side. There are many good young Indian players and experienced foreigners. This combination is really deadly and fantastic. Many of our players have made their ISL debut recently and now we have played two matches so our confidence level has also gone up now. Slowly and steadily, our performance will definitely get better.”
“My experience with all the players has been wonderful. I know almost all the Indian players. We have played with or against each other at some level and now the foreigners have become close to us. We are like one family and it’s a great relationship and bonding that we share.”
Odisha FC have former Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor as their captain and also someone like Marcelinho in the team, who has a huge experience of playing in the league and has been one of the finest forwards to play in India. Kamaljit hailed both the foreigners and also stressed the fact that their presence on the pitch is extremely important for the side.
“According to me, Steven is the best captain in the ISL right now. He has very good leadership qualities which makes him the best. I have played in the league for many years now and I have been a captain as well so I know. He talks and discusses with everyone. He has the experience of playing in various top leagues like Premier League and A-League. He knows how to gel well with players and is involved with each and every member of the side,” the custodian mentioned.
“I know Marcelinho for last 3-4 years now and he is an effective footballer. Once he starts scoring goals, he becomes a goal machine. He is like a hungry lion now and is searching for a goal. He is unstoppable once he gets going and will certainly shine in the upcoming games.”
Kamaljit was a part of the senior national squad, under coach Igor Stimac, for King’s Cup, Intercontinental Cup and the FIFA World Cup Qualifier match against Bangladesh last year. He stated that being a part of the national team is always a dream for each and every player. However, when asked about his immediate dream, helping Odisha FC to reach the playoffs takes paramount importance.
“My first target is to get into the playoffs. This is the main aim of the entire team. I personally will try to keep the maximum number of clean sheets but that is secondary now. The most important thing in our club is to make it to the playoffs and all the players are putting their best efforts to get an entry into the playoffs and we are focused towards that,” said Kamaljit.
“Playing for the Indian team is a dream for each and every footballer in the country. This is a huge thing for me to represent the country from the U-14 level in Asian and South Asian tournaments in various age-group tournaments. I want to keep going like this and would want to perform well this season and get back in the Indian team and continue there for a longer time.”
“It’s a completely different feeling to be in the Indian team and in the dressing room. It’s an amazing feeling and experience, especially on match days. Same is the case at the club-level; match day feeling is wonderful and different. When you are representing your country then that gives a different feel altogether and you have different responsibilities as well,” the Odisha FC goalie concluded.