On the Independence Day, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu gave footballing fans across the country one more reason to celebrate. Gurpreet announced on his official twitter profile that he had signed a 3 year deal with Norwegian club Stabaek Football who ply their trade in Tippeligaen, the top tier of the Norwegian football league system.
Gurpreet started his trials from the 3rd week of May and after 3 months, he managed to impress the coaching staff of Stabaek Football and head coach Bob Bradley. Gurpreet signed a 3 year deal and will be the 1st player from the country to play in Norway. Gurpreet had signed his 3 year deal earlier this month, but had to wait till 15th August to make it official, due to work permit issues.
Stabaek Football are a club who play in the Tippeligaen. The club last won the Norwegian Premier League in 2008 and regularly play in the UEFA Europa Cup Qualifying rounds.The club got relegated in the 2012 season but gained promotion the following year .In the current campaign after 19 games they are currently in the 9th position with 23 points.They have also played in the UEFA Champions League third and second qualifying round in the 2009-10 season.
Gurpreet born in Mohali,Punjab started his football career as a 8 year old boy.He joined a local football academy named St. Stephens Academy and after giving impressive performances for St.Stephens Academy he was selected to represent the state youth team (Punjab U-16).In 2009 he was roped in by Kolkata based East Bengal after impressing East Bengal officials while playing for the Punjab U-16 team and went directly into their youth team. In the 2010-11 season he went to AIFF XI (Pailan Arrows) to get more playing time, but unfortunately he didn’t get any caps and the following season he came back to East Bengal.In the federation cup he went in as East Bengal’s 2nd Goalkeeper however after the Federation cup he became the club’s 1st choice keeper.He made his international club debut on 6th March,2012 against Al-Oruba in the AFC-Cup. He helped East Bengal go into the finals of the IFA-Shield ‘2013.
He will always be remembered by East Bengal fans for his brilliant penalty saves ,in the shootout of the 2013 IFA-Shield Semi Final against Mohun Bagan and also for his error in the AFC-cup semi final match , against Kuwait SC in the 1st leg.It was his mistake that let Kuwait SC score the 4th goal and which ultimately washed away East Bengal’s chance of making an AFC Cup Final appearance.
Gurpreet first came into prominence while playing for the India U-22 team in The under-21 AFC-Cup in Muscat,Oman in 2012.His impressive display were keenly observed by John Burridge , the former Blackpool ,Newcastle and Manchester City goalkeeper. Burridge was so impressed with Gurpreet that he arranged for a week long trial cum training with then English Premier league club Wigan Athletic .The trial at Wigan ended with Gurpreet returning to East Bengal. Burridge who helped Ali-Al-Habsi shape his career had also given the youngster some valuable tips and now we can see that those tips have certainly helped the 22 year old fulfill his dream of playing in Europe. Burridge stressed at that time that Gurpreet had good potential in him and standing at 6 foot 5 inches, height was never going to be a problem.
After signing for Stabaek Football , Gurpreet has become only the 5th Indian footballer to ply his trade in Europe, after the likes of Mohammed Salim(Celtic), Baichung Bhutia(Bury FC), Sunil Chhetri(Sporting Clube de Portugal-B) and Subrata Pal(FC Vestsjaelland).
After making the move official he was in a jubilant mood and told
“I feel good and privileged to stay here and learn so much in three months already.It feels great as an Indian and I want to follow in our footballing greats like Mohammed Salim, Baichung bhai, Chettri bhai , Mistu da(Subrata Pal). The young Goalkeeper didn’t forget to mention Joe Morrison and Former Premier League goalkeeper John Burridge. The duo who helped him getting a trial cum training at Wigan in 2012 and reportedly has also played a big part in his move to Stabaek Football. Thanks to budgie as he identified my talent in Kolkata and Joe’s support has been phenomenal throughout.”
The young goalkeeper might have crossed the first hurdle, but will have to work even harder to get into the first XI of the Stabaek team ,that has already the likes of Ivory Coast World Cupper Sayouba Mande and Young Norwegian Borger Thomas. He may have to be happy with a place in the reserve team for now ,but will be eager to challenge for a place in the starting XI and this is one challenge the young lad from Mohali is looking forward to.
Gurpreet is the second Indian goalkeeper to play in Europe after Subrata Pal , who signed for Danish super league side FC Vestjaelland. Subrata who signed for the Danish club on 9th January,2014. Subrata made his name in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup , where he was referred to as Spiderman and The Most Valuable Indian Player. Gurpreet who is a fan of former Ajax and Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar and India international Subrata Pal, has followed in his Idols footsteps and now it remains to be seen whether he can fulfil the dreams of the nation by being the 1st player to play in any UEFA Competition.