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After finished product Dheeraj, Mario heads back to shape raw talent

Margao: Mario Aguiar is returning to his roots after five years with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and should be pleased that he groomed India’s biggest find at the Fifa U-17 World Cup.Unarguably, India goalkeeper Dheeraj Moirangthem Singh has been, in the words of Bhaichung Bhutia, “the find of the World Cup.” The Manipuri has received rich praise from England goalkeeper David James too and India coach Luis Norton de Matos said the future holds good for Dheeraj and the “fantastic goalkeeper” could play either in England or Spain.Such lavish praise for Dheeraj is not out of place. He surprised everyone with a fantastic performance in all three group games and was quite easily India’s best performance. De Matos credited his compatriot Paolo Grilo for Dheeraj’s success story, but for more than four years, it was Mario who took the young goalkeeper under his tutelage.Paolo, former goalkeeping coach of Major League Soccer side Philadelphia Union, joined the India squad only last month.“People are surprised with Dheeraj’s performance at the World Cup but for me it’s usual. He has always been consistent with his performance and it’s only at the World Cup that he’s got noticed,” said the 50-year-old.
Aguiar joined the AIFF Academy for the first time in 2010 during the days of Collin Toal as technical director. His first assignment lasted for 45 days, and impressed with his work ethic, Toal suggested he should take a full-time job at the AIFF. Aguiar, employed with the Sports Authority of Goa (SAG) as coach, was in two minds and it was not until 2013 that he took long leave and joined the national set-up.Since then, he has coached all top young goalkeepers, and although Dheeraj appears to be his most famous product, there were others who never quite got the same attention.We had some fantastic goalkeepers but once they pass out of the academy, they lose their way,” said Aguiar.After close to five years, Aguiar himself is bringing down the curtain on his association with the AIFF Academy. He had a chance to join the coaching staff for the AFC U-19 qualifiers in Saudi Arabia but Aguiar feels it’s best to return to his employers.“In the last five years, I’ve got plenty of exposure with national teams. It’s time for me to do something with the SAG but I will know my role only when I resume work on November 1,” he said.When he left SAG, he had a training centre in Divar, coaching young ones in all departments of the game. As he returns, the SAG may now hand him a specialised goalkeeping role.With five years of experience with the Indian team, he deserves no less. [TOI]

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