Despite having an approximate population of 1.252 billion, India had failed to produce a footballer – talented enough to feature for a top-division European club for years. Questions were asked regarding the same from time-to-time. Eventually, it was answered by Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
Gurpreet had a childhood dream to become a professional footballer and represent India, and that he did. He had initially started out playing for I-league giants East Bengal after officially penning down a professional contract in 2010. Sandhu was loaned to Pailan Arrows the following year to gain some experience. But he returned soon with no caps under his belt after only warming the bench there. Sandhu went on to become Red and Gold Brigade’s first-choice goalie in 2011 before leaving India to play abroad.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu signed with Norwegian outfit Stabaek FC in August 2014. He is only the fifth Indian player after Mohammed Salim, Baichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri, and Subrata Pal to feature for an European club. The goalie made his debut for the club in a friendly fixture in January 2015. Sandhu made his Tippeligaen league debut against Idrettsklubben Kristiansand Start in May 2016. By doing so, he became the first Indian footballer ever to make a league start in a top-division European match. Later, he registered his name in the history books again by becoming the first Indian footballer to play in the coveted UEFA Europa League in June 2016.
Gurpreet had debuted for the Indian national football team back in 2011 against Turkmenistan. Recently, Sandhu was named as the Indian skipper in the 4-1 drubbing of Puerto Rico in Sunil Chhetri’s absence. Indian captain Sunil Chhetri had publicly stated that only the sky can be the limit for Gurpreet. AIFF chief Praful Patel also reiterated that Sandhu has made India proud and is an inspiration to youngsters.
The 24-year-old custodian is a lifelong Manchester United fan. He idolises Premier League legend Edwin Van Der Sar and Indian goalkeeper Subrata Pal. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s European adventure thus far has definitely been a boon for Indian football.