22-year-old former East Bengal goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu etched his name onto Indian football history by becoming the first Indian footballer in 79 years to take the field for an European club playing in the first tier of the country’s football league structure. Sandhu had been signed by Norwegian Tippeligaen club Stabaek FC in August 2014, and was handed the first appearance of his European career in this weekend’s 4-1 victory over Follo Fotballklubb.
Gurpreet is the fifth Indian player to play professionally in Europe after Mohammed Salim, Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri and Subrata Pal, but only Salim has the recognition of having represented a top-division club – the barefoot legend from Mohammedan SC had been signed by Celtic in 1936.
Read Sportskeeda’s exclusive interview with Sandhu here: I had offers from I-League and ISL – Gurpreet
Massive achievement for Gurpreet: Morrison
TV presenter Joe Morrison said about the 6’6’’ shot-stopper hailing from Chandigarh, "I don't think people fully appreciate Gurpreet's achievement.
“How many have tried and failed to make it in Europe before and here is a boy who through his own hard work and ability has not only earned himself a permanent contract but also now has broken into the first team.
“He could quite easily have gone for the glitz and glamour of the ISL but anyone who knows football knows that the standard in Europe (in any league) is probably four of five levels above that of India."
The tall goalkeeper was seen as a promising and dependable youngster in his East Bengal days. Now that Gurpreet has earned his first cap for Stabaek FC in a comfortable 4-1 victory, the possibile routes that his career can take seem endless.