Gurpreet Sandhu: Sunil Chhetri can play for six more years

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was all praise for his Bengaluru FC teammate Sunil Chhetri and went on to say that it would not be surprising if the 35-year-old goes on to play for six more years at the top level. 

While speaking about his introduction to football, Sandhu shared how winning a 100m race in school opened the doors for him to pick up the sport. He went on to claim that, in a race he could compete with Chhetri if not better him!

"I never watched football until 2006-07. I was born in a cricket-loving family. Even I love cricket. It's just that I found football. I started at my school academy. I won a 100m race. After I won the first race, it helped me get recruited in my academy. Then it was training twice a day training and getting in to a routine.

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"I can compete with Chhetri in a race because I have bigger strides. He can play six-seven years easily. He is getting younger day by day," stated the India international during an online chat show hosted by the Indian Super League (ISL). 

Sandhu is currently in Sydney and has already started to train for the upcoming season with another Bengaluru FC teammate Erik Paartalu. He believes that he needs to improve with the ball at his feet and is currently honing his skills under the guidance of the Australian midfielder. 

"It is easy to train with Paartalu as we are in the same city. He knows the city very well and knows when and which pitch is free. We meet around three-four days a week. Erik makes me do a lot of hard work. I am trying to work on my passing and working with my left foot. Roy Krishna took advantage of my left foot (during the ISL last season). So I am working on it." 

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu of Bengaluru FC saves in an ISL match against FC Goa
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu of Bengaluru FC saves in an ISL match against FC Goa

The 28-year old accepted that the loss to Chennaiyin FC in the 2017-18 final of ISL was a huge setback, with Albert Roca stepping down after the final. He even considers the Marina Machans a greater rival to Bengaluru FC than Kerala Blasters.

"That was one of the worst nights at the Kanteerava. Losing the final is the biggest setback. We became more determined and we worked towards lifting the trophy. I was playing in a league format in Norway and mentally I was still in that league stage where things got over once you top the standings after the league. The shift was different for me to understand (adapt). It was also difficult when we came to know that (Albert) Roca would not coach us. But with Carles (Cuadrat) leading us it became easy. It was the same mindset and the same approach.

"If you slip there's always going to be someone behind you. Bengaluru did a lot in the past six-seven years. This season, a slip-up cost us a trophy. ATK was one of the most difficult sides to play. The way they defend made it more difficult. We had to take our chances. We did pretty well In the first leg. In the second leg, it was their quality that shone through. They deserved that result. We gave them the opportunity to be the better team," opined Sandhu. 

The Punjab-born player also revealed that Miku is the best player he has faced on Indian soil. He also said that apart from Bengaluru FC, he would like to don the jersey of either ATK or Kerala Blasters. 

Sandhu also opened up on one of India's best games in recent times where they managed to hold Asian champions Qatar to a goalless draw away from home. Gurpreet starred under the bar, pulling off several impressive saves.

"We had lost against Oman. It was a tough game. But going to Qatar and finding out Chhetri was not playing was a shock. But it was an opportunity to show that even without our best player we can do the job. I said the same thing in the dressing room. And we got a result. I have played more difficult games before though. The Iran game was much more difficult (in 2015). I was much more exhausted after that."

The former East Bengal player spent three years in Europe playing for Norway side Stabaek FC. He reckons that to be successful in Europe, one must start training there from the formative years.

"I think any player who goes at 15-16 years old in Europe can make it. You just have to work hard. You are training with better players, in better weather. It's not about playing but the journey is very important. That's what will make you a better player," concluded the goalkeeper.


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