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Watch: Football found its way to me, says Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

As cricket fever gripped a young Gurpreet, fate had other plans in store for him as his steady reflexes under the bar made football choose him.


Srijanee D. Majumdar

Updated: 23 April 2021 6:12 AM GMT

The apathy towards football ran deep in the Sandhu household, cricket fever gripped a young Gurpreet as he watched the giant TV screens beaming live action. "Football was my third option," he says, admittedly. Not forgetting, his steady reflexes under the bar made the sport choose him, the 26-year-old keeps saying.

His massive reach, big hands and excellent ability to read the ball is what makes him guard the Indian post, and that he never thought of playing football might make one shudder in the thunderbolt. But fate had other things in store for him, it moulded him in more ways than one. At a tender age of 17, Gurpreet had the privilege of playing for East Bengal FC or 'Laal-Holud', which is what most Bengalis proudly assert their maniacal obsession with.

"I was like, 'I am 17 and all I want is proper training and if I'm not playing at least I'm getting trained by a proper goalkeeper coach'. That was one of the reasons why I was there. And one thing led to another and I am playing games in the I-league, for East Bengal. And then getting the opportunity to go with the Indian team."

But to acrobatically jump parallel to the ground and fist the ball over came easy to him, and how often have we had the displeasure of watching the Chandigarh boy failing to outstretch his hands and palming off what usually appeared as a sure-shot goal landing in the corner? Not a Chhetri, or a Baichung on that matter, seemed to have born under a lucky star as Gurpreet, as he became the first Indian to play in the qualifiers of the UEFA Europa League match, making as many as 11 appearances for the Norwegian club.

"I had to go there myself and show that I'm a player they can use. I went there in 2014 to give trials. And remember I went there thinking that I'm just gonna be here for 10 days, so I didn't have much luggage. That's what my thought process was because that's how trials work....they already had a foreign keeper so I guess they were just deciding if they wanted one more. The goalkeeper coach showed faith in me. And he said that he could make me into a better goalkeeper which they could use," recalls the keeper in excitement.

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