Bengaluru FC and Indian national team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu praised the performances of All Indian Football Federation's (AIFF) developmental team Indian Arrows and advised the young players to challenge themselves going forward.
Indian Arrows came up with some uplifting performances during the I-League season despite finishing bottom, with a draw against Mohun Bagan and a win over Churchill Brothers where they scored twice in injury time all standing out.
"At that age, you need good coaching and a place where you can be pushed. Playing against people who are at a higher level, then only you will be pushed. If you are playing against people whom you can dominate, then you are not raising yourself. Especially at that age, they need to do that," said Gurpreet, exclusively to Goal.
"If they want to do better in the future, they need to look at something where they can be pushed. If they think that staying at Arrows can push themselves, then they should stay there. If they think that going somewhere else is going to make them a better player, they need to do that.
"Of course, they got game time with Indian Arrows. But you would also want to take another step as a professional, into a place where you can challenge yourselves. That's what being a professional footballer is all about."
The former Stabaek goalkeeper opined on Dheeraj's decision to fly to Motherwell FC for trials instead of staying and clocking minutes with the Indian Arrows and praised his replacement Prabsukhan Gill's eye-catching displays in between the sticks.
"I think he (Prabsukhan Gill) got more 'hero of the match' awards than Dheeraj. I don't know why people look at Dheeraj as someone who is at a much higher level. Of course, he has done well. You need to look at others who have done so well in the league. There are people who have done well other than players like Dheeraj.
"What Dheeraj is trying to do is totally different from what Gill is trying to do. Gill is playing at a certain level and he is playing games. Dheeraj already did that and now he is trying to push himself to go to another level. You can't compare someone playing in the I-League and someone trying to become better in Europe.'
Indian Arrows, despite ending their I-League season at the bottom of the table, earned plaudits for their style of play under Portuguese tactician and former Benfica B coach Luis Norton de Matos.
The style of football of the Indian national team under Stephen Constantine has not been eye-catching but has yielded results and when asked if there is going to a change when the next generation of footballers come into the fray, Gurpreet said, "I think the players in the Indian Arrows are far more advanced than what we were when we were or what I was when I was at that age. It depends on the coaches and how they want us to play.
It (style of play) is going to change. In ISL, we have foreign coaches and good foreign players who are training day in day out with you so it raises your level as a player. For sure, the Indian Arrows boys have got so much exposure and it has helped them. They are going to develop technically."