Indian football team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu on Monday said that he wanted to continue playing in Europe but lack of options forced him to move back to India.
Sandhu appeared for a seven-day trial at English club Wigan Athletic in 2012 but couldn’t join the club as he had an existing contract with East Bengal, with whom he had stayed with since 2009.
With the help of Wigan’s Omani goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi, Sandhu then earned a moved to Norwegian club Stabæk.
“Thanks to Ali Al-Habsi, Norway was an option because the goalkeeper coach that he got trained from in Norway, was in a club who was looking for a good prospect and that’s how I got in connection with him,” Sandhu said during an Instagram chat for the Indian Super League.
“He told me to train with them. Bob Bradley was the head coach of the team [Stabæk] back then. [Before that] he was the US national team coach. I went to Norway without expectations. I was in talks with some Indian clubs before going to Norway and told them I won’t sign anything before I leave from there. Then I started training with them and they said we would like to offer you a three-year contract.”
The India goalkeeper made 11 appearances for the Norwegian side. He later created history when he became the first Indian to appear in a Europa League match while playing during a qualifier against Welsh club Quay Nomads FC. But the apperance was shortlived as he got injured.
Sandhu spent three seasons at Stabæk from 2014-’17 but after Bradley left Stabæk in 2015, the Indian fell down the pecking order with the new coach and that’s when he decided to leave.
“I didn’t want to leave [Stabæk] but its something that had to happen. I didn’t want to continue, I wasn’t getting game time under the new coach after Bradley left. When you know that coach doesn’t want to give you a chance and wants to go with an experienced guy, I knew this wasn’t the place for me. My first intention was to stay in Europe and I tried my best. There were one or two options but they were under the level which I was already at. So I didn’t want that. I would rather go back to India and be there,” Sandhu said.
The goalkeeper said he was in talks with Portuguese club Boavista FC after his contract expired at Stabeak but he never heard back from them due to which he moved back to India. He penned a five-year contract with Bengaluru FC in 2017 after talks to continue playing abroad broke down.
Sandhu added: “I already put in a request to Stabeak that I want to leave and that I found a club in Europe. But right before the deadline day, we didn’t hear from the Portugal club. So I was stranded with no option. That’s when I decided to stay with Bengaluru FC for one season and if I get a call back, I’ll happily go that club in Portugal.
“But once I came to BFC, I was doing well. They were an ambitious club and we were playing in Asia. I saw BFC’s vision and their faith in me, so I decided to stay there and they offered me a five-year deal which I happily accepted. They even agreed to help me out if an offer came from Europe.”