"I urge young Indian players to play outside India, don't be afraid," says Gurpreet Singh Sandhu
“He’s bigger than them.”
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was handed the captain’s armband for the first time back in 2016, a day before India were set to play Puerto Rico. He may be still only 25 but coach Stephen Constantine believes that right now, Gurpreet is the biggest player on the Indian squad.
India’s ace shot-stopper recently took to Twitter to express the hardships he’s had to endure back in Norway, where he is currently the goalkeeper of Stabæk Football Club. Gurpreet became the first Indian to start back to back matches for a European top division side and he is glad that he took the risk of venturing abroad to play his football.
“As a player, you want to push your limits and become better. For me, I know it was going to be better playing outside, getting better conditions and better facilities to play in, in comparison to what we have here.”
“Everyone can see the progress. You can take Sunil as an example, you can see the difference in bhai’s game as well. You can see my example. I urge more young players to try doing that (play outside India). If you have the right kind of mentality, you will become better,” he added.
While Singh previously admitted that he did receive quite a few offers from I-League and the cash-rich ISL clubs, his intention was to always ply his trade in Europe. After all, when Spanish clubs and teams like Everton show interest, staying put in Europe is a no-brainer.
“I think at some point someone made be believe that I can make it in Europe. When I was playing here, I looked at Sunil, Baichung Bhutia, Subrata – all these guys have gone abroad. Why not me? If they can do it, why not I? It’s a risk but it’s a risk worth taking. Young players shouldn’t be afraid of it,” the goalkeeper stated.
Gurpreet though did reveal that nothing changed after he was handed the captain’s role in the national side.
“It doesn’t matter really, everyone respects everyone the same way it was before. We help each other, we support each other. It doesn’t make any difference if I am the captain or someone else is the captain. We do our jobs and help each other on the pitch and off it,” he explained.
India will be hosting the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, scheduled to begin on October 6th. Singh admitted that an opportunity to host a FIFA tournament is a rarity and India shouldn’t waste this chance to gain the most from it.
“In my opinion, it’s very important. There isn’t a bigger stage than this for Indian football. If we don’t use this platform well then we won’t keep getting opportunities like this. I hope we utilise it and promote Indian football. India is a nation where all games can be equally popular,” he said.
Gurpreet also reckoned that at this stage, it’s difficult to gauge whether the senior team can punch above their weight. Suggesting that India need to consistently play against teams who are ranked higher than them, he said, “I think it’s difficult to say that until we get games against the top 100 teams. We have developed in the last two years. Now is the time we need to show that we deserve to be here and maintain such progress.”Published 05 Jun 2017, 21:14 IST