BENGALURU: Indian football has gone through a lot of changes over the years. But one thing that has remained constant is the long line of great goalkeepers India has produced.
From the legendary Peter Thangaraj to Tarun Bose, Subrata Paul to Amrinder Singh, competition for the No 1 spot has always been huge. None of them though achieved what Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has managed to do. The 26-year-old lad from Chandigarh became the first Indian to play in a European first division game and in the Europa League during his three-year stint at Norwegian club Stabaek FC.
That European sojourn has however come to a halt. He was forced to move out of Norway in search of game-time. He had offers from Russia, Germany and Portugal, but as Norway’s transfer window was about to close, Bengaluru FC grabbed India’s No 1 paying an undisclosed transfer fee. “It was a very stressful time. This was going on back and forth for very long. My first option was Boavista in Portugal as they showed interest in me. I was supposed to come on loan from there, but since the deal couldn’t materialise in time, BFC paid the transfer fee and I am happy to be back in India,” Sandhu explained.
The former East Bengal player has been India’s first choice goalkeeper throughout Stephen Constantine’s second stint. After playing in Europe, joining BFC may seem a step backward. Gurpreet though considers it as an opportunity. “If you compare the quality of football, everyone knows that India is not at that level. But I don’t think it’s a step backward. I went there and became better at what I do. I’m still the same. I haven’t gone backwards in my skills or talent. So, I see it as an opportunity,” he said.
Sandhu’s European dream albeit, is not over yet. He’s still looking out for a suitable option. “I want to go to Europe, but only on my terms. I want to go where I matter and have a chance to play,” he said. “I don’t want to be just a number for a club because I’m marketable in India. I hope I get to play there again.”
At Bengaluru, Sandhu is a happy man. And despite the fact that he is by far the first choice keeper for Albert Roca, he wants to fight it out with fellow custodians at the club. “I worked day in day out under good coaches in Norway. That improved everything in my game, but a healthy competition is always necessary because you are pushed to your limits.”