Indian football team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is one of the few players from India to play abroad and also holds the rare record of being the he only Indian to make an appearance in the UEFA Europa League. The 6-foot-4-inch tall goalkeeper has become the first Indian footballer to play a top division match in a European league. He went on to play for Norwegian Eliteserien side Stabæk FC for three seasons commencing in 2014, in which he played total of 11 games for the first team.
Gurpreet could have easily opt to play for any club in the ISL but he took the plunge for lesser pay and leave the comfort of his home. His stint in the foreign land has improved immeasurably between the sticks, becoming more vocal in his command of the box, going hand in hand with an upgrade in his shot-stopping skills. His time at the club has been beneficial to Stephen Constantine and the national team; the goalkeeper has become a leader in the National team and integral member for the Blue Tigers.
During recent interaction with All India Football Federation, Gurpreet opened about his experience playing Norwegian top-division club Stabaek Football from 2014-17 and was quoted saying “There are a lot of sacrifices which one needs to make to achieve the desired results. I don’t want to sugar-coat things. Some people think that playing in a foreign country is about having a lavish lifestyle, big house, a good car. It’s not that at all. You have to start from scratch. You have to prove that you are good enough to be on the bench and then in the starting XI. And that’s at a smaller club in a smaller league — unless you’re a Messi or a Ronaldo.”
He further added “But for guys like me — you have to be mentally strong to stay there and work. Many people don’t know the reality. If you want to do well, you need to acclimatize to those conditions. Many younger players may not want to make the required sacrifices as they are comfortable in India.”
Gurpreet has helped transforming players and shared his experience with the team players post his return from his stint in Norway. He also opened up on how his stint abroad helped to be better player as well as improve his mental toughness. I think it made me better by leaps and bounds as a player and in terms of mentality. It made me independent. The exposure didn’t only help me as a player.
“Obviously, it made me a better player for sure, but the experience what it does is — it makes you tougher. It makes you a person who can deal with every kind of situation. Currently, young players don’t get tough situations. You are not put in an isolated place where there is no other Indian in the whole league, you don’t know the local language and the food is different — stuff that you are not used to. Making the transition through this helped me gain that mental strength,”
The Keeper is currently playing for Bengaluru FC, where he will be playing alongside Indian team skipper Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh.