Gurpreet Singh Sandhu: No other feeling like playing for your country

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has been one of the first names on the team sheet for the Indian national football team in recent times. The Bengaluru FC shot-stopper demonstrated his class with a brilliant display against Asian champions Qatar during their away fixture in the FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup joint qualifiers last year.

Speaking to AIFF TV on an Instagram live, Gurpreet shared his feelings about the game, “In that game, all of us were trying to give our best and not make any mistakes. We were facing the best team in Asia and that's what we were able to achieve that night. We were very proud of that result. I remember that I was really emotional after the game because it's something that you are really proud of when you work hard, even if it's 90 minutes,” he said.

Although India went into the fixture as underdogs against the 2019 Asian Cup champions, the Blue Tigers were compact defensively. Captaining the side in the absence of Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet made a string of fine saves to prevent Qatar from scoring and come away with a hard-earned point.

“I remember that there were predictions of 3-0 or 5-0 against India, but to come out of the game and show that no team is big or small was surreal. I was very overwhelmed with that feeling and was very happy that I could share that with the people in the stands,” the two-time Hero ISL Golden Glove winner said.

Even though the FIFA and AFC Asian Cup joint qualifiers have been postponed, the talented goalkeeper is looking forward to playing in national colours again and admitted that there’s no feeling that comes close to representing your country. “If the players don't get the opportunity to play, they look forward for the next one, and I hope it comes one after the other and we complete in all the games as soon as possible because there's no other feeling like playing for your country,” Gurpreet said.

The Indian international went on to add that the national football team has been making positive strides in the last few years and that they deserve as much respect as any other team, Gurpreet said, “Indian football belongs right at the top. We deserve as much respect as any other team and wouldn't take anything less. We are hardworking people, we grind for results and we are not going to be taken lightly. That’s the new generation and we would like to gain that same level of respect that anyone else has. That’s what we play for.”

Having played with many legends of the game from a young age, Gurpreet also spoke about the development of Indian football in recent years and believes that the current crop of players have a lot more to offer.

“The level of knowledge and exposure that today's generation of players have is much higher than what our players had (in the past). Today people have smartphones and they can just google what is good for me, for the diets and stuff like that,” Gurpreet said.

“Also having players like Sunil Chhetri in the team (helps), because he is still at the top of his game. He has transitioned through it, he has changed his eating habits, sleeping habits and that rubs off on younger players. These players learn a lot by looking and observing. And I try to follow that,” he added.

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