Gurpreet Singh Sandhu ready to seize his opportunity

The confidence within Gurpreet Singh Sandhu comes through, ahead of India’s FIFA friendly match against higher-ranked Puerto Rico on Saturday. Toughened by the Norway stint with the club Stabaek the goalkeeper is ready when the opportunity arises.

Coach Stephen Constantine chose him for the 2018 World Cup Asia Zone qualifier against Iran in Teheran. India lost by four goals, despite a brilliant show by the man under the bar.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

The confidence within Gurpreet Singh Sandhu comes through, ahead of India’s FIFA friendly match against higher-ranked Puerto Rico on Saturday. Toughened by the Norway stint with the club Stabaek the goalkeeper is ready when the opportunity arises.

Recovering from a hand injury sustained in an UEFA Europa League encounter earlier this year, Gurpreet is used to the waiting game. “After being signed up to play in Norway, I had to wait for my turn during when I prepared myself to seize the moment when the coach felt confident. The feeling is the same now.”

The Stabaek contracts runs out in 2017. Talking about future targets in Europe, the 24-year-old said: “I want to keep challenging myself. When my Norway club contract ends next year, I will look for a chance to play at a higher level. It does not matter which team or in which country I am playing.”

Gurpreet is emphatic, personally and for India’s sake, when he says competing in Europe makes more sense than playing in the lucrative Indian Super League. “I definitely believe playing in Europe is a better risk to take. Not only for me, also for India. More players from here should take the risk I took.”

Asked about the players he felt had the quality to try abroad, he pointed out: “Each one of the India U-16 is capable of trying to get a trial in Europe. If nothing else, they are younger than me when I got in there. This group is definitely better equipped than when I was playing the U-16.”

On the varied expectations from his coaches (Stephen Constantine is India coach and Stabaek head coach is Bob Bradley), he said: “Every coach has his own expectation from a goalkeeper. The Norway league coaches think different from Stephen (Constantine). It helps me to prepare better, playing under people with different ideas.”

He felt the short distance between the football pitch and spectators stands at the Andheri Sports Complex will help fans enjoy the game. “We need such stadiums which keep fans close to the action.” Constantine chose him for the 2018 World Cup Asia Zone qualifier against Iran in Teheran. India lost by four goals, despite a brilliant show by the man under the bar.