Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is the big wall of Indian football, India’s No.1 goalkeeper and the only Indian player to have played in the Europa League. At a mere age of 26, Gurpreet has achieved all of that and there’s surely much more in store for him.
But here’s the catch, football was not the first sport he tried his hands on. It was cricket that Gurpreet first looked to pursue but the game that has got a whole nation enamoured did not “excite” him much.
Gurpreet’s massive reach, big hands, strong core and excellent ability to read the ball is what makes him guard the Indian post so well but the 6 ft 4 inches keeper intially wanted to be a batsman.
And not just that, he was at an academy playing cricket in his hometown Mohali for 3-4 days before he decided it was not fun for him.
“I didn’t start with football. I started with cricket, to be honest. I started to play because of my dad, he is a big cricket fan and I live in Mohali, quite close to the PCA Stadium.
“I wanted to be a batsman but the coach didn’t see it in me. He (his father) helped me get into an academy there but the first 3-4 days didn’t excite me much. When it’s not fun for you, you can’t do it and football was much more fun for me,” Gurpreet told
Not just cricket, Gurpreet also considered volleyball but then fate happened.
“I also tried volleyball in school but that didn’t excite me either.
“I then got into the football academy in my school. I joined them in 2000 when the coaches approached me and asked me if I wanted to play football. Before that I didn’t have any history of playing football or even watching football. That is how it all started for me!” Gurpreet stated.
Gurpreet is not only the Indian sportsperson to have begun with a different sport than the one they ended up playing for life. Former India captain MS Dhoni is a very well known example of the same.
Dhoni wanted to be a footballer, in fact a goalkeeper, but fate landed him into cricket and wicketkeeping and the rest is history.
However, Dhoni and a lot of Indian cricketers are massive followers of football and even play under Virat Kohli’s ‘All Hearts FC’ once a year. Recently when Sunil Chhetri made an appeal to Indian sports fans to come and watch the national football team play in the stadium, cricketing greats like Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar supported his appeal.
While most Indian cricketers follow football, Gurpreet says it’s not the case vice-versa.
“I don’t think many (footballers) follow but I like my cricket. I love my T20.
“There’s not a particular (Indian Premier League) team I follow but I like MS Dhoni and Virat. They are very hard working people and I envy their hard work,” Gurpreet shared.
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) June 3, 2018
The recent buzz around Indian football has been a refreshing change from the madness of India’s cricket-crazy nature but footballers and in fact, most other sport spersons still don’t get their due.
Gurpreet feels it is a gradual progression, the signs of which are beginning to crop up. He felt India is beginning to become a multi-sport nation and the most important lesson for people out of it should be how they can use different sports to keep themselves fit.
“It’s something we can’t change at the moment but something we have to gradually get into (about India’s focus on cricket). I think in the past 10 years, things have changed and we have become a multi-sport nation.
“But at the end of the day, what I feel people should learn from this is how to keep themselves fit because at the end of the day, the message you’re sending is that you need to be healthy and sports is one of the ways to do that. You can’t just look at one sport and be like ‘oh, this is the sport’. You need to look at different sports and take what you can from it. Everyone is working so hard and people might want to replicate that in their lives,” the Red Bull athlete said.
Even as Gurpreet garners praises from all corners for his stupendous show in the Intercontinental Cup, especially in the final, he says he wants more. He wants to see football getting backed in a much bigger manner in the future.
“I’m a person who is never satisfied, I want more. I want more of everything. I want more to happen with football and you know it’s something that can happen. It’s not like something that can’t happen. We have seen it happen in the last two weeks.”