Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, the only Indian to play in the Europa League, revealed how he limped off the field after sustaining an injury in the match, yet he was not disappointed. The footballer is the first choice goalkeeper in the Indian national team with one close to replacing him.
Having started his professional career with East Bengal back in 2009 as a teenager, the tall and sturdy custodian has come a long way in his career to become one of the finest footballers the country has ever produced. But, it was his stint with Norwegian club Stabaek FC that highlights his career other than anything else. During his stay in the club, he became the first Indian to feature in a Europa League game. Even though he started in the match, the Indian had to be substituted after sustaining an injury, but he was still happy because he was part of the tournament.
"I broke my hand but I still had my smile. Next day also, I was smiling. I had played in the Europa League, which nobody in our country had done before. To get the opportunity for a player like me (was exceptional), I was over the moon. Thankfully, we didn't lose that game,” said Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, during an online session with AIFF.
Even though Gurpreet Singh Sandhu did not get ample playing time during his stay in Europe, yet he feels the experience helped him develop as a footballer. The custodian arguably played one of his best matches for the Indian team last year against Qatar in the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers, where he stood solid and helped India script an unlikely draw in the away match.
“I think it (the stint with Stabaek) made me a better player by leaps and bounds. It fortified my mentality and made me independent. The exposure makes you tougher, a person who can deal with every kind of situation. Nowadays, young players don’t get tough situations. (In Europe) you will be in an isolated place where there's no other Indian in the league. The language, the food, everything is different. It helped me gain that mental strength,” added the footballer.