The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has set up a robust scouting network across the length and breadth of the country who are unearthing young gems to maintain a steady supply to the national talent pool. And Indian Arrows' lanky goalkeeper Lovepreet Singh, who made his professional debut in I-League against Real Kashmir on Sunday, is a product of the aforementioned scouting system.
At 195 cm he is the tallest custodian in the Arrows set up and only India national team keeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (198 cm) is taller than him amongst the keepers plying their trade in the two professional leagues in India.
In May 2018, the AIFF scouting team was holding trials at the Rurka Kalan Academy grounds in coordination with the Punjab Football Association for candidates born in or after 2001. Since Lovepreet Singh was 1998-born, he was ineligible to take part in the trials. But the teenager remained on the premises of the ground where the trials were being held.
On the second day of the trials, one of the scouts spotted Lovepreet outside the field of play along with some of his friends. Next day morning before the trials began, he spotted Lovepreet training under the sticks and was throwing himself left and right to save spot-kicks.
The scout inquired about the player and got to know that since the boy is outside the age bracket, he did not appear for trials.
Lovepreet started training as a midfielder but his coach at Rurka Kalan, the late Jitender Sharma, advised him to pick up the gloves so that he can make the best use of his physical attributes.
Although he did not massively impress the scouting officials in a practice match conducted in the final trial session, they were ready to give him another chance and hence called him for a trials for a berth in the Arrows set up later that year in Goa.
Destiny favours the brave and something similar happened with Lovepreet. India U16 keeper Niraj Kumar went back to Ozone FC whereas Lalbiakhlua Jongte suffered an injury and could not join Indian Arrows. The third spot remained vacant and Lovepreet did enough in Goa to impress coach Floyd Pinto and secure a contract with Indian Arrows.
He started training from August with his new teammates and with just six months of professional training under his belt, he made his top-tier debut. Although it was not a spotless performance from the debutant, he showed promise with his shot-stopping ability against the likes of Gnohere Krizo and Danish Farooq. If he can further improve his technical and decision-making abilities, the keeper can be an asset to Indian football given his standout physical attributes.