CHENNAI: Coming back from the national camp to his club is a rather drastic shifting of gears for Amrinder Singh. For India, he’s backup goalkeeper to Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and his role on the sidelines is that of the patient understudy. But for Mumbai City FC, he has a lot more responsibility to handle. For, not only is he first-choice keeper for them, he’s the club’s co-captain as well.
Last season, under Portuguese Jorge Costa — the defensive rock in the heart of Jose Mourinho’s Champions League-winning Porto team — Amrinder was part of one of stingiest defences in the league. Only NorthEast United conceded less than Mumbai last season and Amrinder tied with NEUFC keeper Pawan Kumar and Bengaluru FC’s Sandhu for the most clean-sheets.
But all that’s history now and Amrinder, as a team leader, is focused on ensuring a repeat of last season’s semifinal run. “The mood is great and everyone’s training hard,” the 26-year-old says. “Everyone’s striving to reach a higher level. I think our pre-season has been great and everyone’s happy with it. The team feels ready for the season ahead.
“We reached the semifinals last year. This year also, the minimum expectation is that — reach the semifinals, and then we’ll see what happens. The coach is the same and we know what the plan is, what he expects of us. That increases the confidence a bit.”
Amrinder first took the armband for Mumbai last year and has since been sharing it with his Portuguese teammate Paulo Machado. “It was a responsibility that I shared with Paulo, so I enjoyed it,” he says. “As a leader, you feel you have a responsibility to keep the team together, like a family and help each other. Senior players like me and Paulo have to ensure this. They handle the junior players very well. We have a promising bunch of young players — Sarthak (Golui), Raynier (Fernandes) and Sourav Das. They are all good players and they will have a big role to play this season.”
He did miss a good chunk of pre-season as he was away with the national team but Amrinder believes the transition has been smooth thanks to the similar philosophies of India coach Igor Stimac and Costa. “He (Stimac) is a good person,” says Amrinder. “He’s great on and off the field. His style is very similar to our coach. Both were players at the highest level, so they know how to treat the players and what they need. It helps that coaches at the club and national level have the same philosophy.”
And while he is intent on making sure the team reaches its goals, he has his own personal aims, something that he hopes his Mumbai displays will help him achieve. “I will always want more matches with the national team,” he says. “And I will work as hard as I can to make sure that happens.”