India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and veteran Subrata Paul have a lot of mutual respect for what they have been able to achieve in their respective careers. The current No 1 said he looked up to Paul growing up.
“Subrata bhai has been one of my role models when I was starting out. I was lucky to have been able to train with him. The things he did, and still does in training – I wished I could do the same and tried to replicate them when I was young,” he said.
The 33-year-old is no longer in the scheme of things in the national team while Gurpreet has consistently managed hold on to his spot. The duo have manned the Indian goal for most of India’s matches in the last decade.
Gurpreet was just eighteen when he was picked for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar, where Paul produced some stunning displays that earned him the nickname ‘Spiderman’ from the South Korean coach.
The 28-year-old hailed Paul’s displays in that tournament.
“The team of Asian Cup 2011 consisted of so many iconic names in Indian football, including Subrata bhai, who was excellent.
“I was the youngest player in the team then, and he was the perfect example for me to learn from. I tried to grasp as much as I could from observing him from so close and the experience has helped me become the player I am today,” he said.
“We have all seen how good Subrata bhai is technically. He has been a role model for all aspiring keepers over the last decade-and-a-half. He is such a strong character and his determination and commitment towards the team is really admirable.”
Both keepers have had stints with European clubs. Their dominance has also been a talking point at the domestic level with Paul winning the Indian Super League Golden Glove award in the 2017-’18 season, while Gurpreet won it in the next two editions.
Paul complimented his successor. “I know him since the 2011 AFC Asian Cup where he was my roommate. He is someone who never fools around during practice sessions and is tireless. Sometimes, I see myself in him,” Paul said.
Gurpreet’s self-assured presence in front of goal is a quality the Jamshedpur FC stopper admires.
“What struck me about him was his confidence. He was never averse to learning new stuff.
“He is still young and I wish him all the best.”