A rainy, windy night. Typical English conditions in a small Welsh county of Flintshire on the 30th of June 2016. Home side Connah Quay Nomads FC are welcoming Norway club Stabaek Football at the 1,500-seater Deeside Stadium in the UEFA Europa League qualifiers. In a team sheet dominated by European players, there is one name that catches everyone’s eye. Jersey No.22 Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
Gurpreet is the first-ever Indian to play a competitive match for the first team of a top-division European club and the fifth Indian to play professionally in Europe after Mohammed Salim, Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri and Subrata Pal. The 28-year-old is also the first Indian to ever play in the UEFA Europa League, just one tier below the famed Champions League.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu
Football ( Goalkeeper )
Date of Birth
3 February, 1992
Chamkaur Sahib, Punjab
Tejinder Singh Sandhu and Harjit Kaur
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu Biography
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was born on 3 February 1992 in Chamkaur, Sahib, Punjab. By the age of 8, Gurpreet fell in love and took up football. He joined the St. Stephen’s Academy in 2000. In 2006, Gurpreet was selected for the U 16 state team. He made his debut for Punjab in Haldwani, 2006.
At the age of 15, Gurpreet realised he was destined to play football. “I think at the age of 15 when I joined the Junior National teams of India and I got a chance to watch the National League and interact with the professional players,” Gurpreet remembers. “That’s when I knew I could play football professionally,” he revealed once.
While, playing for the state and national youth teams, Gurpreet also continued to play at the St Stephen’s academy while completing his studies. In November 2009, Gurpreet Singh joined East Bengal, one of India’s oldest football team.
Gurpreet’s promising performances in the U 19 AFC Cup caught East Bengal’s management’s eyes. After a brief stint with the youth team, Gurpreet officially signed a professional contract with East Bengal in 2010. In his debut season, Singh made five appearances, mostly in cup games.
Gurpreet then was sent on loan to Pailan Arrows (currently Indian Arrows) in search of regular football and development. With no games under his belt for a season, East Bengal recalled Gurpreet in the 2011-12 season, in which he was the second choice goalkeeper during the 2011 Federation Cup.
Later he took over as the first-choice custodian for the I League season. Gurpreet made his I League debut in the match against Goan club Churchill Brothers, Singh became an integral part of East Bengal’s coming campaigns.
He made his debut in continental competitions in Asia in 2012 in the 2012 AFC Cup against Al-Oruba as East Bengal lost the match 0–1. He continued to play for East Bengal until the 2013-14 season, making over 100 appearances for the famed club.
Scripting History in Cold Norway
At the end of 2013-14 season, Gurpreet realised the only way to progress was Europe. “I had already made up my mind after finishing the 2013/14 season that I will try my chances with Europe, at any cost,” Gurpreet says.
With the help of former English goalkeeper John Burridge (Budgie), Gurpreet got in touch with Espen Granli, Norwegian club Stabæk’s goalkeeping coach, who invited Sandhu for trials.
Sandhu attended the trials, leaving Granli and Stabæk management impressed. Within a month Gurpreet had a contract to sign in front of him. However, he was unable to do so because the transfer window only opened in August. Come Independence day 2014, Gurpreet signed for Stabæk.
On 18 January 2015, he made his senior debut for the club in a friendly match against Follo. Gurpreet made his league debut in May 2016 in an away match against IK Start. He became the first Indian footballer to play in a European top division league. On 30 June 2016, he became the 1st Indian footballer to play in a UEFA Europa League match.
Despite creating records in Norway and confidence from the goalkeeping coach, Gurpreet did not get enough opportunities to start.
Gurpreet was playing second fiddle to Ivorian World Cup keeper Mande; and despite learning a lot from the world cupper, Sandhu felt he was missing out on playing time at a crucial part of his career.
After his time with the Norway club, Gurpreet confessed that if not for Stabeek, he would have signed for a Spanish club. Even English top-tier club Everton had shown interest in him.
Dominating ISL with Bengaluru FC
Sandhu left Stabæk in August 2017 to return to India. Within the month, Gurpreet signed with two times I-League champions Bengaluru FC for an undisclosed fee. He made his debut for Bengaluru against in the AFC Cup Inter-zone play-off semi-finals against April 25.
Gurpreet showed what was in store for Bengaluru fans, as he saved a penalty in the 75th minute. He made his league debut against Mumbai City FC. On 30th November 2017, Gurpreet was sent off for pushing FC Goa’s Lanzarote. The 10-men BFC went on to lose a thriller of a game 3-4, resulting in their first-ever defeat. Gurpreet was crucial in the franchise’s run to 1st place in the league.
The following season, Gurpreet continued his solid performances as Bengaluru went unbeaten in the first 11 games of the season. Gurpreet conceded only 10 goals while keeping 4 clean sheets during the streak. Bengaluru went on to win their first ISL title in just their second season in the league. For his troubles, Gurpreet won the Golden Glove award,
In his third franchise with the club, he has become a crucial player along with Sunil Chhetri. At occasions, he even captains the team as Singh, Chhetri and co go in search of their second consecutive ISL title.
Gurpreet made his debut for the India U-19s against the Iraq U-19s in the 2010 AFC U-19 Championship qualification on 5 November 2009. Gurpreet received his first Indian team call up at the in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. Also, he made his debut against Turkmenistan in a 1–1 draw.
Gurpreet failed to make a national team appearance following the game against Turkmenistan for four years. However, he was recalled into the Indian team in 2014, a year after joining Stabaek.
In 2014, he joined Stabeek and within the year, he was recalled to the Indian team. For the next two years, Gurpreet set himself as India’s top choice goalkeeper.
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However, there were ar certain times, when he was questioned as he was still the second choice at the Norwaign top-tier club. The fact that he was not playing regular football not only itched him but National team coach Stephen Constantine.
After Gurpreet moved to the BFC, a delighted Constantine said, “At Bengaluru, he will play.” He added, “He did not start in Stabaek, which was a concern for me, and I told him last year that you need to be playing games if you have to go to the next level.”
Furthermore, Gurpreet was called up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier squad against Nepal in 2015. He made his second appearance for the senior team against Iran in a 2018 World Cup qualifier at Bangalore.
In 2016, Gurpreet captained India to a memorable 4-1 thrashing of Puerto Rico and played an essentially defensive role against Kyrgyzstan in a 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualification game.
Road to Fifa World Cup 2022
The Indian Football team had a mixed 2019. They started with a victory against Thailand in the Asian Cup 2019, before losing two consecutive home games to get knocked out of the competition. A change in management with the Fifa World Cup Qualifiers approaching made things even complicated.
Under new coach Igor Stimac, India began with a draw and three losses. They started the World Cup qualifiers against Oman at home. Leading at the 80th minute, fatigue and a lack of experience saw the Blue Tigers concede 2 goals in ten minutes, lost the game.
Heroics against Qatar
The Indian team was under immense pressure as they travelled to the home of Asian Champions and hosts of the following World Cup, Qatar. With no win in the last 6 games and no Sunil Chhetri meant that the Blue Tigers were toothless in attack.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was given the armband. And the goalkeeper gave one of his best performances of his life by pulling off 11 incredible saves to keep the game scoreless. Unsurprisingly, he won the Man of the Match.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu Family
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was born to Harjit Kaur and Tejinder Singh Sandhu. He also has a sister. Gurpreet’s family has always encouraged him to pursue his football career. Gurpreet is in a committed relationship with Devenish.
— Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (@GurpreetGK) August 7, 2017
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s Favourite
- Football Club – Manchester United
- Goalkeeper – Edwin van der Sar and Subrata Pal
- Car- Lexus
- Favourite Game after football- Volleyball, Cricket, Badminton, PubG.
- Player- Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Achievements of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu
- Indian Super Cup, 2011
- Calcutta Football League in 2011, 2012–13 and 2013–14
- Federation Cup, 2012
- IFA Shield, 2012
- Winner Indian Super League, 2018–19
- Winner Hero Super Cup, 2018
- Arjuna Award, 2019
- Indian Super League Golden glove, 2018-19
It wasn’t an easy game to play, but to come back with a win and a clean sheet away from home was the ideal way to start of our AFC Cup campaign #BluesInAsia
Who remember’s this little guy? pic.twitter.com/zCzGoMYxLq
— Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (@GurpreetGK) February 4, 2020
Starting off 2020 with a home cooked meal with loved ones. Something that i pledge to do regularly this year, i hope everyone has a great year ahead and an even better decade! #HappyNewYear pic.twitter.com/mem0SMEr8S
— Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (@GurpreetGK) January 1, 2020