Let us begin by counting the number of readers who know about the massive transfers of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to PSG or better still let us count the number of readers who don’t know about these transfers. Almost equaling this number will be the number of people who know about Sunil Chhetri’s transfer to Sporting Lisbon. For a nation obsessed with cricket the transfer of Indian players to Europe has come as a fresh breath of air.
It all started with Mehtab who was on trial in Scotland followed by the much hyped and illustrious transfer of Sunil to Sporting Lisbon. Gurpreet Sandhu’s trials with Wigan and Subrata Pal’s trial in Germany ensured that Indian players were constantly in news because of their links with European clubs. TheHardTackle looks at the four players and their trials with the European clubs and examines if there are any positives that the country can take from their trials
Mehtab Hossain Trains in Scotland
The first news that broke in the Indian Football circuits was that Mehtab was going on training cum selection trials for two Scottish clubs Falkrik FC and Airdrie FC. The news came as a bit of surprise as Mehtab had signed an extension with East Bengal some days back itself. Alan Gow, a former East-Bengal player was believed to have played an important role in setting up the trials. Speaking to media Mehtab said
Every footballer aspires to play in world stage and for me too it’s very important. I hope it works for me as well. I will be practicing with Falkrik FC, which is a first division club. And, I also plan to participate in the selection trials for Airdrie FC. Let’s see how it goes
Mehtab gave a good account of himself in this short cameo with the clubs. Reports suggested that while he had an assist to his name in one of the game, he scored with a free-kick in the second game. Mehtab also went on to earn the praise of his coach who said he had a good control on the ball.
Despite returning back without any success, Mehtab’s biggest strengths are his abilities to dictate play from the center of the park. Despite being given a raw deal by most Indian coaches, Mehtab is one of the best play-makers around and his reasonable showing at the trials vindicate that fact.
Chhetri signs for Sporting Lisbon B
After Mehtab’s trials with a couple of clubs in Scotland, came the news that the football fans in India were waiting for a long time. The poster boy of Indian Football Sunil Chhetri signed for the reserve team of European giants Sporting Lisbon. In a glittering ceremony that featured AIFF President Praful Patel and Sporting Lisbon Vice President, Sunil was handed the club jersey. An elated Chhetri expressed his happiness -
From 163rd (India’s FIFA ranking) to playing in the 5th ranked nation in the world, it’s one opportunity I will never forget in my life. I will have to do a lot of hard work. I will leave no stone unturned, so that I don’t regret later in my life. When I am 40, I don’t want to feel that I could have done better. I am excited. I want to see where do I stand and I want to grab it with both hands. I can’t let go this opportunity.
The celebrations were however marred as it was reported that Sunil was a ploy which Sporting were using to tap the football market in India. There were also doubts over his remunerations and whether he would ever get an opportunity to play in the top division. The doubts however have been put to rest with news coming in from Portugal suggesting that Sunil scored in the reserve team’s 5-0 victory is his first match itself after coming off as a substitute.
The challenge for Sunil however is two-fold - to ensure he makes a name for himself and also try to put Indian Football on the map of the world football. And as Praful Patel put it -
It is truly a very remarkable occasion for Indian football. It’s an important milestone. He will be playing shoulder to shoulder with some of the top players of the world. This is a beginning of a new era in Indian football
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s stint at Wigan
East Bengal goalkeeper, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is currently on trial cum training spell at the English premier league side Wigan Athletic. The lanky Chandigarh lad was noticed by the former Blackpool and Newcastle United goalkeeper John Burridge during the Bengal derby last year in the I-league. Budgie, as he is fondly called out by his fans, was a part of the pundit panel airing the game live from the Yuba Bharati Krirangan. Budgie said during the show itself that he was more than impressed by Gurpreet’s performance in training as well as in the match. John kept a close eye on Sandhu’s performance over the course of the Indian season.
In the recently concluded U-22 AFC championship qualifiers in Oman, Gurpreet was rewarded for his consistent good performances under the bars for the Red-&-Gold as he was chosen to be the stand-in captain in the absence of Jeje. He once again met Budgie in Dubai, along with Al-Habsi, the Oman National team goalkeeper, whose career path is also believed to be mentored by the Englishman. Al – Habsi presently plays for Wigan Athletic.
Although Gurpreet cannot join the Latics on a permanent deal, but he would look to impress the coaching staff there. Wigan staff could refer the Punjabi lad to any other club where he fulfills the recruitment criteria.
Subrata Pal in Germany
India’s number one custodian, Subrata Pal, is currently in Germany for trials at the German fourth division side RB Leipzig. Subrata Pal was noticed by many clubs abroad after he pulled some breathtaking saves against top quality sides in the Asia Cup last year. The Kolkata lad has generated a lot of foreign interest since. The Red Bull owned side was promoted to Regionalliga Nord (German fourth division) a couple of years ago and are looking to leave their mark in Bundesliga.
We are delighted to have Subrata as a part of RB Leipzig during the off-season training…. It will be a two-week development and trial programme and we are really looking forward to it….We would like to understand during this training how we may potentially use his expertise in the future and also understand the depth of Indian football – RB Leipzig Coach Zorniger
Subrata has moved from Pune FC to Prayag United SC this season after the Kolkata-based side lured his signature for a hefty amount. Subrata claims Oliver Kahn as his inspiration, and India’s Spiderman would be certainly looking to impress the Leipzig staff and hope to join the Die Bullens and get noticed among the clubs in Germany.
Shillong Lajong players to train in Denmark
Shillong Lajong FC has constantly tried to improve the standard of their football and this news comes as no surprise to football lovers in the country. The club has vividly been in news for sending its youth players to train abroad in clubs like Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Internazionale. But this time, three of the most influential I-League players, namely Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Lalthuammawia Ralte and Lalramluaha are all set to undergo training camp held at FCV Vikings till the end of this week.
The Lajong boys will have access to the best training facilities and will be looking to make full use of this international exposure. The trip will also serve as an exercise to gauge the standard of the Indian League players, as the three boys seek to gain valuable experience from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. - SLFC Media release
The trip was made possible after the Meghalaya based club got into an agreement with Dubai based corporation, Anglian Holdings Sports and Marketing.
Recently, there has been a lot of positive trial and training news for Indian contingent on foreign soil. These players are certainly having a time of their life as they train with international players and this would further polish the raw talent they already possess. Players like Mehtab and Gurpreet Sandhu are at a crucial stage of their career and exposures like these would help them grow as a more mature players and will empower them to transit the same to their colleagues back here.