While the ISL seems ready to start with a blast later in the month and provide the hordes of football fans in the country with some much needed pride of having a glamourous league (albeit with foreign top players in the twilight of their career and the season only being 2 months long and only 8 teams) one Indian youth is creating a name for himself in a foreign land. He is the fifth Indian footballer to play in Europe after Mohammed Salim (Celtic), Bhaichung Bhutia (Bury FC), Sunil Chhetri (Sporting Lisbon ‘B’) and Subrata Pal (FC Vestsjaelland).
It was a proud day for Indian football on August 15th as 22-year-old goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu completed his signing with Norway-based club Stabaek Football. The Mohali-born youngster spent time on trial with the club before signing a three-year deal. Despite being the first Indian to sign for a top league club in Europe (granted that the Norwegian league is in no way comparable to the likes of the English, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch or Belgian leagues and even the ones in Greece or Turkey) his achievement has been in the sidelines due to the pomp and sparkle of the ISL. Sandhu has arguably gone farther in Europe than any Indian ever has. While Baichung Bhutia spent time in England’s third tier and the likes of Sunil Chhetri and Subrata Paul have been limited to reserve team action, Sandhu has been on the bench for five consecutive Tippeligaen (Norway’s top tier) games for a 102-year-old club that has been a fixture in the Europa League in recent years.
He has started 6 reserve team games and the only thing standing between him and a starting berth is Sayouba Mande, who was part of Ivory Coast’s 2014 World Cup squad. The youngster does not expect to break into the starting eleven this season, but at 22, knows he has time on his side and believes his decision to choose Norway over the Indian Super League was right. Hope he goes on to nab the top spot for goalies and goes on to better things.