KOCHI: There was one unheralded hero when India held Qatar to a memorable draw in the World Cup qualifier back in September — Manvir Singh. The 24-year-old had the monumental task of filling in for the injured Sunil Chhetri for a game of that magnitude. As the dust settled and India held Qatar to a goalless draw, Manvir emerged with his reputation enhanced. He pressed and ran relentlessly, tried to hold the ball up, fought cramps to stay on till the end. For a striker who more often than not warms the bench for his club and hardly gets much playing time, Manvir had put in an impressive shift.
Fast forward to last Sunday and his doggedness earned FC Goa a point against Kerala Blasters from what looked like a lost cause. Blasters were leading 2-1 and the game had gone into injury-time. Manvir was leading the line in the absence of the prolific Ferran Corominas. As the referee was ready to blow the whistle, the frontman went on a barnstorming run and fired a shot at goal. Blasters keeper TP Rehenesh could not get the ball under control and the rebound was tapped in by Manvir’s teammate Lenny Rodrigues.
Manvir had also scored an injury-time equaliser against NorthEast United earlier this season. These are subtle hints that Manvir could play a bigger role for club and country and lead the line for India when Chhetri retires. But Manvir doesn’t see it that way. “It’s not an issue of who will replace Sunil Chhetri (when he retires). Whoever plays well in that position, he will play for the country. Everything depends on what a coach wants from his players. I will always give my hundred per cent,” said Manvir.
His industry and commitment on a football pitch is never in question, but lack of opportunities in the ISL could hamper his growth. “This is an issue for every Indian striker. We play very few matches in the whole year and then we go to the national team and it gets difficult to play against international players. If we get to play league matches, then we will gain confidence and do well in the India games as well,” said Manvir.
However, Manvir is starting to enjoy more game time for FC Goa under Sergio Lobera. “For the last two seasons, I used to come off the bench in the 80th or 85th minute. I scored one goal and one assist in total. I’ve started some matches this season and already got one goal and one assist.”National team coach Igor Stimac would be hoping that Manvir starts firing, especially at a time when the team is struggling up front. “Scoring goals is not just the job of the strikers. The whole team has to contribute. We are a young team and the team is just building up. Results will slowly come.”