Gurpreet backs Bengaluru FC to bounce back, says they want to make the nation proud in the AFC Cup
India and Bengaluru FC goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is confident that the 2018-19 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) champions will be back with a bang in the upcoming edition after a seventh-place finish in the 2020-21 season – first instance for them that they didn’t make the semi-finals since joining the league in 2017-18.
“…We have to turn around things, we have to make some changes and start all over again. That’s what the club has been trying to do. I’m very, very happy that whoever has come in so far is trying to help the club,” Gurpreet said on the latest episode of Football United which also featured his Bengaluru FC team-mate and 2020-21 AIFF Emerging Player of the Year, Suresh Wangjam.
“I was happy when I heard the news. I’m delighted being named the AIFF Emerging Player of the Year and I would like to thank everyone,” Wangjam said.
But before India’s premier football league gets underway later this year, the Blues, under new head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli, have to contend with their AFC Cup play-off tie against Club Eagles from the Maldives on August 15. In the event of a win, Bengaluru FC will join fellow Hero ISL side ATK Mohun Bagan, Bangladesh’s Bashundhara Kings and the Maldives’ Maziya Sports & Recreation in Group D (South Zone).
“It’s good to have pre-season start again, good to have new boys here. Finally, we are all together in a beautiful place like Bellary where we are right now and we are really looking forward to the AFC Cup. It’s one of the few chances that Indian clubs get in the continental competition and we want to make the nation proud and BFC fans as well,” Gurpreet said.
20-year-old Wangjam, who recently featured in India’s remaining three 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, echoed the goalkeeper’s sentiments. “Everyone is working hard; everyone is giving their 100 percent on the pitch. We are really looking forward to the competition. Last time around we were out in the qualifying play-off [against Maziya Sports and Recreation] so this time we want to go full on and win all the games,” he said.
Since the disappointment of the 2020-21 Hero ISL, Bengaluru FC have signed seven new players. These are: Danish Farooq, Jayesh Rane, Prince Ibara, Sarthak Golui, Alan Costa, Yrondu Musavu-King and Rohit Kumar. “It’s brilliant to have such new faces, also familiar faces, people like Jayesh Rane and Rohit Kumar [So has Golui]. They have played in the Hero ISL before. These players will realise that whatever they have done in the past doesn’t matter here at Bengaluru FC. They have to start afresh and build their reputation,” Gurpreet said.
Gurpreet also spoke of Pezzaiuoli in glowing terms. The head coach guided the team to a 5-0 win against Nepal’s Tribhuvan Army FC in April early this year in what was also his first game in charge. “It’s been phenomenal working with him so far. Touch wood! He is very demanding, he wants to play aggressive football, that’s very enjoyable, even though it’s very tiring. Not for me but for people like Suresh who have to run a lot (Gurpreet says it with a chuckle). It’s fun to be at the back of it and make sure we are playing football in a way we enjoy and also destroy opponents,” he said.
“Coach wants us to play aggressive, with or without football. He wants us midfielders to keep things simple,” Wangjam weighed in.