Balwant Singh’s career undergoing a renaissance at 30

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The Mahilpur academy product scored his first goal in the Blue jersey on Saturday and has made his way back into the plans of Stephen Constantine…

Stephen Constantine took charge of the Indian national team on January 16, 2015 by the All India Football Federation (AIFF). In his very first camp held at Guwahati, Balwant Singh was among the several strikers called for the camp.

However, the striker failed to impress and wasn’t chosen thereafter. It must be remembered that just a few months earlier, he had become the first Indian to score in the inaugural edition of the Indian Super League (ISL). Much was written about him though that turned out to be his only goal in the competition that season in 14 appearances.

The following season in the ISL he struggled for game time and only managed 218 minutes where he could only make it into the starting eleven on two occasions.  Chennaiyin FC won the ISL in Goa and Balwant headed to Kolkata for his Mohun Bagan stint.

He scored the third goal in Bagan’s opening day 3-1 victory over Aizawl FC in Kolkata and followed that up with another (fourth goal) in the 4-2 rout of Salgaocar FC. He made three substitute appearances thereafter with Jeje Lalpekhlua getting the nod after a goal against Shillong Lajong.

The former JCT striker picked up a knee injury in February and was ruled out for the rest of the season. None of the ISL franchises opted to sign him as they had doubts whether he had indeed recovered from the knee injury.

Balwant Singh Mohun Bagan Mumbai FC I-League 2017

He went on to ply his trade  for the Green and Maroons in the Calcutta Premier League (CPL) and the I-League. This time around he scored the only goal in the win against Churchill Brothers. He scored a brace in Bagan’s 3-1 away victory over DSK Shivajians after being a goal down and netted an 89th minute equalizer against Mumbai FC.

His goals were important as they helped the Kolkata outfit pick important points as opposed to scoring the fourth or third goal in rather comfortable victories. More than his goals, his overall game play drew praise as he would link up well in attack.

In the ISL draft last month, he was picked up by Mumbai City FC. Incidentally, his performances in Bagan shirt caught the attention of Constantine and assistant coach Shanmugham Venkatesh and he was called for the national camp with Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh not being in contention for the Tri-Nation tournament due to their AFC Cup commitments with Bengaluru FC.

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He was given a chance at the start of the second half with the score tied at 1-1. Not only did he score the winning goal for the Blue Tigers, his link-up play with Jeje was commendable. Balwant was good in the air and also held the ball up when India were put under pressure. In the Federation Cup too, he scored three goals in five matches and helped the club to make it into the final.

“Look, Balwant, for me today was superb. He absolutely ran himself into the ground. And I am really happy that he got his first international goal,” said Constantine.

Not many players earn that kind of praise from the English coach which is a testament to the fact on how Balwant has forced the coach to change his opinion on him with more meaningful performances at this stage of his career.

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