Hero Indian Super League (ISL) debutants Bengaluru FC have brought in a major recruit by signing India’s first choice and former Stabaek FC goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu from the Norwegian club. The 6’4 lanky custodian will have his first stint in the ISL, having kept for Hero I-League giants East Bengal for five years from 2009 to 2014. The 25-year-old is also the only Indian to have appeared in the UEFA Europa League, which was during his stint with Stabaek.
Bengaluru FC CEO Parth Jindal was pleased with his club’s new signing. “It’s a matter of pride that Gurpreet has chosen to play for BFC. For us, he is as big as a European signing. His presence and leadership will add immense stability to the team. While he is with us, we will provide him with all the support he needs to be back among Europe’s elite,” he said.
It was not always smooth sailing for the Mohali-born player as he had to always fight out for his position, starting with East Bengal where he had an unstable start making only five appearances in his maiden season. Consequently, he was loaned out to Pailan Arrows, but that stint ended without him having made a single appearance and he soon returned to his parent club as the second-choice keeper.
From thereon, it was all uphill for Gurpreet as he slowly consolidated his position as the team’s number one choice, also representing the club in the 2012 AFC Cup, and ended up making more than a century of appearances for the club.
Signing for Stabaek FC made him only the fifth Indian to join the ranks of a European club after the likes of Mohammed Salim (Celtic FC, 1936/37), Bhaichung Bhutia (Bury FC, 1999-2002), Sunil Chhetri (Sporting Clube de Portugal ‘B’, 2012/13) and Subrata Paul (FC Vestsjaelland, 2014). Here too, he started off mostly as a bench-warmer, but ended up making 11 appearances for the club – which included the Europa League match-up against Connah’s Quay – and kept six clean sheets in the process, including one against the Welsh side.
His experience in the Norwegian league was pivotal and India’s coach Stephen Constantine wasted no time in installing him as India’s first choice goalkeeper. With 16 appearances for the country, Gurpreet has kept six clean sheets and has also worn the captain’s armband on a couple of occasions. A towering and confident figure in the box who is constantly aware of his surroundings, Gurpreet is known for his quick, reflex saves. And for someone who is so tall, he gets down quickly to make low saves as well.
Commenting on his move to Bengaluru FC, he said: “I’m extremely delighted to have signed for Bengaluru FC. While the experience of playing in Europe was fantastic, lack of game time was an important factor in making the decision of moving back to India. I had an offer from another top-flight club in Europe, but the need to play regularly ahead of the AFC Asian Cup in 2019 was something that was on my mind.”
“The fact that Bengaluru FC was interested in me was encouraging considering what they have achieved over the last few years. With BFC playing on the continental level this season as well as the next one, it will provide the perfect platform for me,” he added.
At Bengaluru FC, he will reunite with teammate and regular captain of India Sunil Chhetri. With the most lethal experienced attacker at the forefront and one of the topmost goalkeepers the country has ever produced, fans can look forward to a lethal and formidable unit and it will be interesting to see how the ISL debutants fare in the upcoming season.
News Source – indiansuperleague.com