I-LEAGUE Media Team

NEW DELHI: Bharat FC made their first domestic signings for the 2014-15 season of the I-League, acquiring goalkeeper Shahinlal Meloly and striker Manjeet Singh on season-long deals. Manjeet Singh joined Bharat FC from Churchill Brothers SC while Shahinlal Meloly was a free-agent.

Manjeet Singh, born in Batala village, Gurdaspur district of Punjab, is an experienced front-man, having plied his trade with a number of top Indian professional clubs. Having been trained at the Mahilpur football academy in his native Punjab, Manjeet moved to JCT for the 2003-04 season before switching to Mohun Bagan a year later. He then spent three years with Mahindra United, before transferring to Salgaocar SC for the 2008-2009 season.

After stints at Air India and Mumbai Tigers, Manjeet moved to Churchill Brothers, playing in the 2014 Durand Cup for the Goan side. The 28-year-old is also a full international for India, having made 12 appearances for the senior national side. He was also part of the Indian team that won the Nehru Cup in 2007.

Shahinlal, a goalkeeper, hails from Calicut in Kerala. Having taken up football at the age of 12, Shahinlal was a quick learner, progressing to play for his district and for his state within a couple of years. The 24-year-old then joined now-defunct side Viva Kerala for the 2008-2009 season. He moved to Bharat FC’s cross-town rivals, Pune FC, in 2011, playing regularly from 2011 to 2013.

Bharat FC’s head of operations, Prasad Kapre, said that Manjeet’s experience and Shahinlal’s potential was behind the club signing up the two players. “Manjeet has played in the NFL and the I-League for a long time. He has also been part of the national team and he definitely has the quality to perform at this level. Shahinlal is young and Bharat FC is committed to giving young talented players a chance to prove themselves,” he said.

Head coach Stuart Watkiss said that he was impressed by Manjeet’s tactical awareness and strength during Bharat FC’s invitational trials. “Manjeet’s got a great head on his shoulders. He is calm, thinks every pass through and has a great eye for goal. His movement and tenacity was what impressed me the most. Shahinlal is a good young ‘keeper. He commands his area well and is quite confident of his abilities,” he said.

While Manjeet said that the chance to play in a well-drilled professional setup was the clinching factor behind his move, Shahinlal said that the chance to work with a high-quality technical staff was his motivation behind signing on the dotted line. “The coaches are really good. I am sure I will learn a lot of things by just interacting with them. We have had some good training sessions and we are looking forward to making a strong start to our I-League campaign,” said Manjeet.