You have to be mad to be a goalkeeper. It’s easy to understand why. Make one mistake and it leads to a goal for the opponent and all the numerous wonderful saves that you make before or after, are forgotten.

For Prabhsukhan Singh Gill, the man in charge of the Kerala Blasters FC goal in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) this season, it was no different.

Having started his career as a defender playing in various local tournaments in the Sarabha village in the Ludhiana district of Punjab, the suggestion for him to swap defending for goalkeeping by his coach Harjinder Singh at the Chandigarh Football Academy, wasn’t welcomed.

“I didn’t want to play as a goalkeeper. It wasn’t something that excited me and I was adamant about not changing my position,” Gill told the ISL media team during an exclusive interview.

But coach Harjinder who was seeking a goalkeeper for the U-10 group which Gill was a part of, wasn’t ready to give it up. He sought help from his elder brother Gursimrat Singh Gill, now a centre-back at ATK Mohun Bagan, who was also part of the academy to convince Gill. Even his family was called to the academy to persuade him to make the change.

Eventually, after a long chart with Gursimrat, Gill decided to take the plunge into goalkeeping, albeit hesitantly.

“I couldn’t say no, so I agreed hesitantly. However, I had no plans of continuing in goal in future,” he said.

After training as a goalkeeper for a few months, Gill was asked to be a part of the U-14 CFA team that was travelling to Jamshedpur for the Nike Cup in 2012. Their goalkeepers were either injured or ill and there was no other option than making Gill, who was still playing for U-10s, play in goal.

The tournament presented a big challenge for young Gill, but he passed the test.

“I was under huge pressure during the matches. Every time the ball crossed the halfway line, I used to start chanting God’s name. My only wish was that the ball should never reach me. But thankfully, whenever I was needed to make a save, somehow I managed it. I don’t know how but I did it,” he said.

He played the zonal as well as the all-India stage matches in goal for the team and won the best goalkeeper prize in the final. The reward was a brand new pair of Nike shoes.

“Winning that pair of Nike shoes was big for me. Before that tournament I didn’t even have proper gloves and I often trained with normal woollen gloves that we use in winters. So winning that pair of shoes told me that I could win things as a goalkeeper and that’s when I took it more seriously,” Gill said.

Gill became more aware of his own talents between the sticks when he helped the Chandigarh U-14 team win the U-14 School nationals in the very same year. He made several saves as the  team won three penalty shootouts during that tournament. Another best goalkeeper award followed. There were no Nike shoes this time, but a validation that the spot between the sticks was bringing him the accolades.

“If I wasn’t a goalkeeper I would never have had the chance to play those tournaments. As a defender, I had no chance, so that’s when I felt that maybe playing as a goalkeeper is better for me,” he said.

In 2014, Gill’s journey took another positive turn when he was selected as part of the group that was being readied for the U-17 Fifa World Cup in India in 2017. For a relative rookie who had just about made up his mind to become a goalkeeper, it was an important step.

“From June 2014 to January 2015, I learnt all my basics of goalkeeper under coach Mario in Goa. These were the most important months of my career,” Gill recalled.

However, it wasn’t easy for Gill who was among the eight goalkeepers in the group to always make the A team. He was often in and out of the main group, but he kept working on his skills.

Eventually, in 2016, he was picked for the A team that toured Germany. But after being part of that group for a few months, coach Nicolai Adam became aware of Gill’s qualities as a defender when he used him in that position during training in Dubai just to fill in for another defender who was injured.

“The coach told me that he was surprised by my qualities as a defender and that he would use me in that position if a need arises.”

Gill then became a part of the main group doubling up as a goalkeeper and defender.

“I played as a defender more often under coach Adam than I played as a goalkeeper. Whenever we played a tournament, I used to get two jerseys, one as a goalkeeper and one as a defender,” he revealed.

However, under new coach Luis Norton de Matos, he was only used as a goalkeeper and he went from strength to strength in a position that he had focussed on since 2012.

Gill didn’t get a chance to impress during the Fifa U-17 World Cup as he was the No 2 to Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem but he impressed the Indian faithful a year later while playing for Indian Arrows in the I-League.

It attracted interests from various Hero ISL clubs but for Gill, one offer stood out among the rest, for one big reason.

“I had offers from many clubs but I decided that I wanted to join Bengaluru FC. They had Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and I wanted to learn from one of the best goalkeepers in Asia,” he said.

The move that lasted for just six months proved to be fruitful as Sandhu shared invaluable tips with Gill.

“I learnt a lot from Gurpreet bhai. Those things help me to date. He was great with me and shared information on diet, positioning and everything else with me,” Gill said.

In 2020, Gill joined Kerala Blasters FC to get more time on the pitch. Like every other step in his career, it didn’t come easily to him but like every time he kept working hard, patiently waiting for his chance.

An injury to Albino Gomes during the Hero ISL 2021-22 season meant Gill got his chance to shine in goal for Kerala Blasters FC. The 21-year-old has since made that position his own and has been one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the Hero ISL this season.

The Blasters are the meanest defence in the league and Gill has been a big part of it. He has kept four clean sheets this season, more than any other goalkeeper in the Hero ISL.

Gill credits Kerala Blasters FC’s goalkeeping coach Slaven Progovečki for his excellent form.

“Slaven has transformed me in the last few months,” he said.

“He has worked on minute details of my game from my body to core to the very basics. He has made me better,” he added.

Having made a habit of winning the best goalkeeper prizes since childhood, Gill won’t settle for anything less on the biggest stage in Indian football, but for him now the real satisfaction comes from winning as a group.

“We want to win the title. I read a message the other day from a fan that said that this is the Kerala Blasters FC team that we had been waiting for for a very long time. Messages like these give us motivation to do even better. Hopefully, we can do that for them,” he added.

Winning the Hero ISL this season could be tougher than ever given how close the competition is, but with the towering presence of Prabhsukhan Singh Gill in goal, Kerala Blasters FC’s chances only get better.