Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu feels playing in Europe will benefit him and Indian football.
Asked if he would consider playing in India should the proposed three-tier league format gets underway, Sandhu said: “I believe playing in Europe is a better choice because it is going to help me become a better player and help India if Indian players are to motivate themselves to be at that level. That’s where we want to be, and not playing in India.”
Sandhu is the only player in the current team to play in a foreign league. He has been part of Norwegian club Stabaek in the Tippeligaen league since he moved there in 2014. He became the first Indian to feature in the UEFA Europa League when he started in the goal for Stabaek in their first qualifying round match on June 30.
Having made his debut in the 0-3 loss to Iran in a 2018 World Cup qualifying match at Bangalore in September, Sandhu has since been the first-choice goalkeeper for the national team. He feels more Indians should be playing overseas.
“I do feel good about the situation that at least we have an Indian player playing overseas. It’s me, but even if it were someone else, it would be great for us.
“It is a very important factor to have an Indian playing outside India. That’s the only way Indian football is going to progress,” Sandhu told reporters before the team’s training session at the Andheri Sports Complex on Wednesday.
Asked if the current crop had the quality to play abroad, he said, “If the players are willing to try, yes. I believe every single one of them can play (in a foreign league). Especially, players in the current under-17 squad. The younger, the better.”
Sandhu is with the Indian team to prepare for the friendly against Puerto Rico on September 3.
Puerto Rico are ranked 114 in Fifa standings, higher than India’s 152.
Sandhu is relishing the battle. “I think I’m ready. I’m always looking for the opportunity to play for India. They are a good side according to the rankings but we are ready for the battle and will give them a good fight.
“India should play teams like this (higher-ranked teams) all the time. That’s how we will build our team,” he said on the mentality of the squad.