Indian national team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu believes the match against Oman in the round 2 of the Fifa World Cup 2018 (AFC) qualifiers will be no different to an army battle. Gurpeet joined the national side in training today in Bangalore ahead of their game against Oman at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was the part of the Indian side that beat Nepal in the round 1 of the qualifiers.
Chandigarh born 6’6” tall Gurpreet Singh Sandhu became the second Indian after the legendary Mohammed Salim to represent a 1st Team of a Top Division European Club. Interestingly, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu created history as he became the first Indian in the post-independence era to play for a top side European club in a competitive match. Gurpreet featured for Stabaek in a Cup game against Runar, and kept a clean sheet as Stabaek won 6-0.
Twenty two year old goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh was born in Mohali, Punjab and is currently the only Indian football player plying his trade not only outside India but in Europe with Norwegian top flight side Stabaek FC. He signed for the Norwegian side in the summer transfer window of 2014, having previously played for Kolkata giants East Bengal. It is worth pointing out that this is not a loan arrangement or a commercial deal but instead based purely on talent, ability and merit.
The story thus far is surely a fairy tale for the young lad from Mohali but it was a chance meeting with former English Premier League goalkeeper and renowned goalkeeping coach John ‘Budgie’ Burridge that started Singh’s journey to a European Club. Burridge was impressed by the 6’ 6” frame of the youngster as well as his impressive agility and invited him to train with Premier League outfit Wigan Athletic and he hasn’t look back thereafter by signing for Norwegian side Stabaek FC.
Here are the excerpts from his interview with Sportzwiki editor Dipesh Agarwal:
Now that you have made your debut for FC Stabaek, and have the European experience, do you expect a guaranteed spot in the Indian national team?
I don’t think so as it didn’t happen last time. I was hoping to play last time as well, but it didn’t happen. I always want to play, but at the end the coach has to decide who is better and I have to follow it. I think I’m ready to start games now or in the near future.
Stephen Constantine recently said the team is aiming to win all home games. How important is to win points at home against strong sides like Oman?
It’s very crucial to get as many points as we can specially in the home games as we have our supporters backing us up.
How different are the match preparations under new head coach Stephen Constantine?
The preparations are good under him as we try to create different situations which we can face during a match against the teams we play. It helps us to prepare and in games like these we have to give it all. There is a proper system that we have been given by the coach and we try to follow it.
We have seen a lot of new faces in the national side recently. Who has impressed you the most?
I think Jackichand Singh has proven in the league that why he was picked up. Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Sandesh Jhingan have also done well.
Stephen Constantine is not shy when it comes to dropping big names, does it add an extra pressure to perform well?
Well, it’s hard to say, but the fact is that you always have to be on your toes and keep performing consistently to keep your spot. Pressure will always be there.
So are you optimistic about India’s chances?
I always believe in my team. I think if we fight as a unit and get the required results, there are chances. We need to do the right things.
The first match against Oman is at Sree Kanteerava Stadium and we have seen a lot of Bengaluru FC fans turning up for the matches during I-league, do you expect something similar in the World Cup qualifiers?
I hope there is much more support than we have already seen in Bengaluru for the national side.
We witnessed a brilliant ending to the I-league season with Bengaluru FC and Mohun Bagan going neck to neck. What do think of the outcome?
Yes, the ending showed how much competitiveness was there in the I-league this season. It’s sad that Bengaluru lost it, but Mohun Bagan deserved it too.
So do you think the quality has improved?
There is a lot of improvement still to be made. The fact that only 11 teams took part in the national league of India is not acceptable, and that doesn’t sound like improvement.