National football team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has once again done the country proud by becoming the first Indian to play a top-division league match in Europe. The Mohali lad turned out for his Norwegian team Stabaek FC in the Tippeligaen (which is Norway’s premier league championship) and kept a clean slate against the bottom-placed side IK Start on Sunday. Stabaek won the match convincingly by a 5-0 margin.
After the game, 24-year-old Sandhu tweeted: “Proud to become the First Indian ever to start in a Top Division League game in Europe!!!!.”
Later talking to TOI from Oslo, Norway, Sandhu said: “This match was very important for me and I am happy that I could keep a clean slate. It was not that easy out on the field as the scoreline suggests. The weather was difficult, but I managed to pull through.”
Sandhu is at present the second goalkeeper of the team, behind Ivory Coast keeper Sayouba Mande.
A confident Sandhu said that if he gets a chance to play in the first eleven in the coming games, he would do his best to repeat this performance.
“It totally depends on the coach and the team management and they will decide who plays as the first eleven goalkeeper. I have learnt a lot from Sayouba. He is a fantastic individual… always willing to share. My job is to be fit and ready whenever my chance comes to play,” he added, when asked whether this (keeping a clean slate) performance of his will tilt the scales in his favour. The 6 feet 6 inches tall Sandhu had signed up for Stabaek in 2014, but hadn’t played a single Tippeligaen game till now, although he had featured in five Norwegian Cup games. Co-incidentally, Sandhu had kept a clean sheet in his Norwegian Cup debut match too.
Sandhu’s father Tejinder Singh Sandhu is a DSP in Punjab Police, while his mother Harjit Kaur is an inspector in Chandigarh Police.
His father said, “We are very proud of Gurpreet’s achievement. I hope he plays in the English Premier League (EPL) one day and brings more laurels for the country. He is putting his heart and soul and working very hard with the coaches there (in Norway). I am confident that our EPL dreams are not far-fetched.”
“My other wish is that Gurpreet should help India win more matches, now that he is the number 1 goalkeeper of the national team,” he added.
Sandhu has been the number one goalkeeper in the Indian team since Stephen Constantine took over last year. He will directly join the national team in Laos where India are playing their play-off match of the 2019 Asian Cup Qualifiers on June 2.