Gurpreet Singh Sandhu reflects on the Qatar game and calls it the most satisfying moment of his career
After playing an instrumental role in helping India register a historic draw against Qatar on Wednesday, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was back in Bengaluru FC colours today at the club's first training session in the build-up to the 2019/20 ISL campaign.
Sandhu was one of India's most impressive players on the night and at the sidelines of the Bengaluru Football Stadium, the shot-stopper reflected on his performance during the 90 minutes, whilst also trying to sum up the feelings he went through after the game.
"It was kind of a relief for me because I wanted to get a clean sheet with the national team," Sandhu said.
"It has been a while and it was my first clean sheet with the national team this year, so I was very happy about that.
"On the other hand, yes, not only me but all of the boys performed really, really well. I watched the game again last night and the day before that as well, and I can tell you with confidence that I wasn't the only one (who was good) on that pitch.
"There were 10 other people who gave their hearts out and it's all because of their efforts that we were able to get a result out there."
In the absence of Sunil Chhetri, Sandhu was given the responsibility to lead India and he spoke about the significance of wearing the armband and how it made him stand up and assume more responsibility.
"First of all, it was unfortunate that we could not have Chhetri bhai in the side because he's a player that you always want in your team, and the kind of things he does on the pitch is incredible. But, it was something we had to manage," Sandhu said.
"Regarding the captainship, for me it was just added responsibility to make sure that I did my job well firstly, because I think that if you're given something and you don't use it well or don't put up an example, it won't help the other players around seeing that one of the senior players isn't performing up to the mark.
"And that's what I've learnt from Chhetri bhai in all these years. He's the kind of guy who will do his job perfectly and by seeing him do that, the other players want to replicate that, and that's what I try to do whenever I get responsibility in the national team."
Qatar peppered India's goal with 27 shots through the course of the game and Sandhu stood tall, leading on the pitch by example and making 11 saves in the process. When asked which was his favourite save, he said:
"I didn't count (laughs). I think in the first half when their number 15 (Bassam Hisham Al-Rawi) had a shot, I made a one-handed save. It looked very easy on television, but it wasn't because I had some traffic in front of me and I saw the ball very very late. That's the save I think I liked the most."
Sandhu also spoke about what was going through his head during the dying minutes of the match and how he wanted the team to hold on and get the job done. He said:
"In the 89th minute, the 90th minute I was like just hold on because we're almost there, and in football, anything can happen at any point in time, so I just tried to stay in the moment and try to focus on what you can do, and that's what I did."
Being so heavily involved in a game might be mentally taxing for a goalkeeper, given that you have to be alert throughout the 90 minutes on the pitch, and Sandhu believes that being mentally switched on helped him perform well and stay focused during the match.
"It's not easy when you're not switched on," he said.
"When you're switched on and things are happening during the game, it's fine. It's difficult when you're not switched on during the game.
"So, I think for me it was fun. But, this is something that I won't like to have happening occasionally, but for me, it was about being in the game throughout the 90 minutes."
When asked if the Qatar draw was the best he's felt on a football pitch, Sandhu said:
"Let's hope not (laughs). Most satisfying, yes, because I could see the amount of effort every single person on that pitch had put and to get rewarded like that, it was very very satisfying for me, not only because of myself but because of the 10 other people that were in front of me because they deserved it. The kind of effort that they put in during those 90-95 minutes was amazing. For them, I was satisfied."