Gurpreet Singh Sandhu revealed how national team coach Igor Stimac lifted the spirits of the players ahead of the World Cup qualifiers against Qatar last year by taking the team out for a dinner the previous night. India had lost 1-2 against Oman a few days before they boarded to the Gulf nation.
The Indian football team might have fared below expectations in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, but they managed to pull off an extraordinary goalless draw against 2019 AFC Asian Cup winners Qatar away from home. In spite of several efforts, the Gulf nation failed to strike the target, thanks to a career-defining performance from Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. The custodian revealed how the national team coach Igor Stimac lifted the spirited of the players and their mood changed after he took out the team for dinner ahead of the match against Qatar last year.
“The coach told us he wants to take us out for dinner (after the game against Oman) and it came as a slight surprise to us. Looking back at it now I can say for sure that it had a very important impact on the whole team,” said Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, as reported by the All India Football Federation.
“Coming in from the previous match against Oman, we were still upset and angry about that result. But after the team dinner, the tide had completely turned and all of us were now completely focused on the task ahead of us,” added the footballer.
India has lost their opening match to Oman, before boarding the bus to Qatar, by 1-2, even though they were leading by a goal till the last quarter of the match. Gurpreet’s compatriot Sandesh Jhinghan, who also produced a sensational performance in the match against Qatar, also reminisced how the players had a smile on their faces after the team dinner before the match, brushing away the memories of the forgettable match against Oman a few days ago.
“When we got on to the bus to go to the restaurant, our frame of mind was still 50-50. The 1-2 loss to Oman was still playing on our minds. But when we got on the bus to go back to the hotel, everyone had a smile on their face and the determination to succeed against Qatar. There was a complete mood change after the dinner,” said Sandesh Jhingan.