Tag: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

We will be playing for win against Thailand, says Gurpreet

ABU DHABI: Ahead of India’s clash against Thailand in the opening match of the Blue Tiger’s campaign in the AFC Asian Cup, Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu stated that India will be playing for a win.

Speaking at the Official Pre-Match Press Conference, Gurpreet said, “It will be a challenge for us tomorrow against Thailand, but the boys are ready to face them and we will play for a win”

“We have worked really hard in the last four years to be here and we will try to put on the best show possible. The boys have been doing the hard work on and off the pitch, we will make sure that the work does not go in vain”

“We as a team are proud of the belief that we have made over the last four years. We have given our everything on the pitch and will continue to do so”, he added.

The Indian National Team has been drawn in Group A of the AFC Asian Cup alongside hosts UAE, Thailand and Bahrain, after qualifying for the fourth time only in their history with the last qualification coming way back in 2011. The Blue Tiger had however finished Runners-up in 1962.

“As a team, we have proved that we can win and we are not a team to play against. We are concentrating on the challenge ahead and will take one match at a time”, Gurpreet further states, “The main thing is to stay positive and be consistent”

The goalkeeper was also part of India’s squad in the 2011 edition of the AFC Asian Cup and drawing comparisons he said, “The experience of playing in 2011 has been huge for me and I have learnt a lot from it”

“It was a different team in 2011 when players were at their peak. This team is young and could play for years to come. The desire in this team is ever-growing and they are hungry to prove themselves”

Meanwhile, Head Coach Stephen Constantine sitting beside stated that the Indian National Team is the second youngest team in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 with an average age of 25 and the youngest in India’s history to participate in the AFC Asian Cup.

The coach said, “The future is bright and we will try to make it out of the group stages. Thailand we will be a tough test for us, but we are confident of our abilities.”

Current U16 Crop much better than what we were at their age, states Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

NEW DELHI: There has been a lot of attention on the Indian U-16 national team, especially with the exposure tours they have had. The colts being coached by Bibiano Fernandes have played 20 international friendlies against U-16 national teams since January 2018 and are presently gearing up for the AFC U-16 Championship Malaysia 2018, which kicks-off in Kuala Lumpur from September 20.

We spoke to senior national team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who has been a part of the Indian U-16 teams in the past and he feels the current crop are a whole lot better than what Sandhu and co used to be at their age. EXCERPTS:

You have represented India at AFC U-16 level? How were those days?

Every single day we would learn something new about the game. There was hunger to grow and evolve as better players. That was the first time we started to receive good coaching.

Let us know about your days at AIFF Academy.

Those were the days where I was still wondering if I will ever be a professional. Those were the days when I connected with the game and learnt about Indian football at large.

In comparison to previous batches, the current U-16 crop has been getting a lot of international exposure. Does that make you jealous?

(Laughs) I would say, maybe a bit (laugh again). Jokes apart, it’s a very positive development. If we would have that much exposure what they have been receiving at the moment, who knows things would have been much different. They are very lucky and need to make the most of it.


But overall, I’m very happy that they are getting such opportunities and that youth football is being taken so seriously. After all, they are our future.

Did you get any chance to have a look at them in any of the matches live streamed?

I have watched some of the highlights of their games. It is clear that quality wise, these boys are much better than what we used to be at that age. It makes me feel very proud. Things are changing and I am pretty positive.

There are quite a lot of boys in the U-16 team who idolise you.

I am humbled that they see me worthy of this. I am just a normal player who is trying to contribute to Indian football as much as I can. We are all part of one big family.

The U-16 boys are playing Vietnam, Iran and Indonesia at the group stage. What would be your message to them?

I would like them to be humble and stay united as a team. When you go in as a team, you can do things which no one can ever imagine. I hope they win these games and make us proud. Good luck boys!

Gurpreet paaji has helped me in various situations says Anirudh Thapa

NEW DELHI: Anirudh Thapa, one of the brightest young talents of the country revealed that he used to get bullied by other boys in his childhood for not being as physically as strong as them. But, he didn’t give up and finally, could lay a hand on the prestigious ‘AIFF Emerging Player of the Year’ award.

“As a kid, I used to play with the bigger-sized boys who were playing seriously whereas for me it was nothing more than a fun. I used to get bullied these days because I wasn’t as big as them,” he smiled during a media interaction in the Capital. “But, I didn’t give up and continued to eventually reach here where I’m today,” he recollected.

“I was not extraordinary in studies, unlike my elder brother who is an engineer. I pushed myself into Football and my dad backed me to pursue my dream. He used to take me to various camps and finally I landed up in the AIFF Academy where I started honing my football skills,” the 20-year-old midfielder stated.

Thapa mentioned that it was a ‘dream-come-true’ moment for him to start in the Intercontinental Cup in Mumbai and he wholeheartedly thanked the senior players for backing him.

“The Intercontinental Cup was where I made my first senior team start and it was nothing short of a dream-come-true moment for me. Through the tournament, the senior players helped me settle down well and we always look up to them and learn the nuisances of the game.”

Meanwhile, Thapa made a special mention of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who helped him on various occasions to come up as a better player.

“Someone like Gurpreet-paaji was extremely welcoming and helped me in various situations.”

“Everyone in the team keeps telling me to hit the gym and put on some more mass. Playing in central midfield is a tough job as you get sandwiched by defenders as well as strikers,” the Uttarakhand-based player added.

“Representing the country is an achievement and in the next few months, we’re going to play the AFC Asian Cup. We won’t make it an easy job for the coach when he selects the team for January. We are fighting hard for the limited slots in the team.”

“SAFF is a tournament where we have generally been successful. Whether we’ll come back with the trophy from Bangladesh or not, that depends on time. But, we can assure that we won’t throw in the towel without a fight and we’ll give 100% on the pitch to accomplish the goal,” Thapa mentioned.

India will take on Sri Lanka in their opening fixture of the SAFF Champuonship 2018 in Dhaka on September 5, 2018.

I can’t take my place for granted – Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

MUMBAI: India’s numero uno Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu lauded Dheeraj Singh for his stupendous display in the FIFA U17 World Cup. “I have high hopes from Dheeraj because he is a very good prospect who can do a lot for this country,” Sandhu, the first Indian to ever played in the UEFA Europa League stated.

“Being the first choice (goalkeeper) so far has been good for me. But I can’t take my place for granted. And whoever the next one is, I hope he is better than me,” Sandhu opined.

On being asked about India’s prospect in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, the custodian expressed: “We can’t be complacent and need to work hard. If we don’t put in our hard work, it will be difficult for us,” he mentioned. “We need to play at our best on those days. Otherwise, it won’t matter. Thailand, Bahrain are good teams and UAE being the home side will be a difficult side to deal with.”

Sandhu felt, Intercontinental Cup is a “good opportunity” for the team before the Continental championship and the team is ready to grab it.

“It is a very good platform for us to start building for AFC Asian Cup. We are lucky to have good opponents coming to India and giving us games. So we need to use it and make sure that we perform and learn from this experience. Make no mistake, New Zealand, Kenya and Chinese Taipei are tough teams.”

The 26-year-old Goalkeeper who made his International debut against Turkmenistan seven years back also added: “Chinese Taipei beat Bahrain recently and All Whites (New Zealand) need no introduction at all. Kenya have been a strong physical side and every team are going to give us different sort of problem.”

I-League 2017/18: Indian Arrows set for I-League return against Chennai City

GOA: All eyes will be on Indian Arrows – the developmental squad fielded by the All India Football Federation in the I-League 2017-18 as they take on Chennai City FC in the opening round of campaign at the GMC Bambolim Stadium in Goa on Wednesday.

The current Arrows squad is a mix of Under-17 Indian nationals who participated in the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 alongside Under-19 players who recently competed in the AFC U-19 Championship Qualifiers in Saudi Arabia.

“We are very excited with this possibility to play in the I-League. We know we are looking for such possibilities,” the Indian Arrows coach Luis Norton de Matos said in the pre-match press conference held today.

“These players are going to get more match experience. This is a starting point. The difficulty we see in the I-League will be similar to what we saw in the World Cup,” Matos said.

The idea behind fielding the young footballers in the I-League is to give them game time and Matos feels that this is good for the future.

Meanwhile, such a similar experiment was done between the 2010-2013 period which produced players like Jeje Lalpekhlua, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Holicharan Nazary etc.

Their opponents Chennai City FC are only into their second season in the I-League they would look better their 8th place finish from last season.

The Southern side are giving a platform for young footballers from Tamil Nadu to showcase their talent.

“We are concentrating more on Tamil Nadu players. That is why we have taken players from rural areas. We signed more players from the Chennai league. This year we had a very good pre-season and I have confidence in my players,” Chennai City coach V Soundararajan said.

Meanwhile, their captain Michael Soosairaj was cautiously optimistic.

“Actually we don’t underestimate anyone and everybody knows how they performed in the WC. We hope to be the better team,” the skipper said.

“We get to play 18 games which will give us a lot of experience,” Suresh Singh who played a pivotal role in the FIFA U17 World Cup and is part of the Indian Arrows team said.

Everyone deserves credit including the bench: Sandhu

NEW DELHI: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, the first Indian Footballer to play in the UEFA Europa Cup feels the team has “become stronger as a unit with every passing game.” In a freewheeling interview, Sandhu speaks at length about the significance of qualifying to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, the changes in the squad, the resilient back-four, the art of defending and much more. EXCERPTS:

What does it mean for you to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019?

The last time in 2011 I was in the squad and it was a huge experience for me. Since then, qualifying for another edition of the AFC Asian Cup had been a priority for me.

The Asian Cup is a stage where you would want to play in your career simply because you get to play against the best in Asia, all of whom are very talented players. It’s the platform from where you can learn a lot to mature as a player.

What has changed in the squad in the last 12 months?

I think we have become stronger as a unit with every passing game. The work rate has been exceptional and the biggest plus point stays that we have been consistent for the last 12 months. The results are ample proof of that.

The Goalkeeper and the back four’s contribution often goes unnoticed. What are the strengths of India’s back four?

Such is the nature of the game (laughs aloud), but I need to put this straight. Our good run cannot be attributed to just the back four or the goalkeeper or the midfielders or the strikers. The whole team needs to be credited including the bench. In all of our games, we have defended together as a team and have stayed patient for our breakthroughs.

Which has been the most satisfying victory in recent times?

To me the away victory against Myanmar followed by the victory against the Kyrgyzstan in Bengaluru will always stay on the top of the list (so far). Both Myanmar and the Kyrgyz Republic are extremely good sides who are very difficult to play against. Victories in those two matches put us in a very advantageous position to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.

Players need to utilise opportunity to cement place in squad: Chhetri

NEW DELHI: ‘Talismanic’ Captain Sunil Chhetri feels the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 will help in understanding “where we lie as players and areas we need to improve.” As the Senior National Team prepares in Mumbai for India’s forthcoming AFC Asian Cup Qualifier against Myanmar slated for November 14, Chhetri, the highest Indian goal scorer in International Football with 55 goals spoke at length about future megastars of Indian Football, the last two years with Indian Football, the road forward and even his “regrets.” EXCERPTS:

You have played a major role in qualification to two AFC Asian Cups for India. Where do you rate it in your illustrious career?

It will be among the highest achievements. The memories of Doha 2011 will stay with me forever. It’s the top-most tournament in Asia and qualification was not just on my priority list, but for the entire squad. But I do have regrets too.


(Takes a deep breath) The last time when we couldn’t qualify for the 2015 edition which was held in Australia. I was really very sad. The regrets of not qualifying still linger and if anybody is to be blamed, it had to be us — the players.

What will the 2019 edition of the AFC Asian Cup provide for Indian Football?

It will help us in gauging ourselves as to where we lie as players and the areas we need to improve. That’s of paramount importance as Indian Football moves forward. The movement forward needs to be a continuous process and the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 will allow us to rub shoulders with the best in Asia.

There has been the arrival of a new breed of players in the National Team like Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Sandesh Jhingan, Udanta Singh amongst others. Are they the next megastars of Indian Football?

I really hope so. I will always put my money on them. In fact, I will be very disappointed if the trio doesn’t dominate Indian Football for the next decade. I also hope they get tough competition, with the U-17 and the U-16 squads pushing them further. Those batches are doing well for us too.

The present team is a new set playing together for 2 years now. What do they need to better themselves as players?

Maybe the Coach and the respective players can answer it better as to how they can improve as players.

But yeah, the players need to improve and that has always been my mentality. There is a lot of potentials which stays unachieved and if isn’t attained, it’s Indian Football’s loss.

For an outside point of view, I hope the players utilise their opportunity to cement their place in the squad. At the same time, there always needs to be a healthy competition from the bench to take the places in the starting XI. The process will only help Indian Football to get further stability.

Which has been your most satisfying moment in the last two years with the National Team?

It may sound weird but the triumph in the SAFF Cup was very significant. We were severely hit by injuries and missed a lot of seasoned pros. Winning with newcomers was indeed satisfying. Moreover, it was all about the rivalry with Afghanistan and had they won it, they would have taken the title forever.

In addition, the victory against the Kyrgyzstan in Bengaluru was special too. They are a very good side and we had to dig deep. I have since watched the match many times and feel proud every time about the manner it was achieved.

AFC Cup: Bengaluru bow out after draw with FC Istiklol


BENGALURU: A ten-man Bengaluru FC saw their dreams of a consecutive AFC Cup final come crashing down when Albert Roca’s, who needed to win by a two-goal margin, ended things at 2-2 with FC Istiklol (3-2 on aggregate) on a night at the Kanteerava marred by dubious refereeing decisions.

The Blues went behind in the 4th minute to a decision of a penalty that never was after replays showed no contact between ’keeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Fathuloev Fathullo. The hosts then pulled one back when Rahul Bheke headed home his first goal (24’) for the Blues. In what was a massive blow to the comeback effort, defender Harmanjot Khabra picked up a second booking just before half-time, reducing Bengaluru to ten-men.

Istiklol’s second, scored by Dmitrii Barkov (56’) had a hint of off-side but the Blues’ pleas fell to deaf ears. Bengaluru then won a penalty of their own that skipper Sunil Chhetri converted in the 65th minute. But it wasn’t to be a magical night that the Fortress hoped it would be as Istiklol weathered a brave Bengaluru charge.

Albert Roca made two changes to the starting XI with striker Daniel Lalhlimpuia and defender Harmanjot Khabra replacing Antonio Dovale and Collin Abranches from the team that took the pitch in Dushanbe.

Needing a win by a two-goal margin to progress, Bengaluru got off to a horror start when Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was penalized by referee Khamis Al-Marri for an apparent foul on Fathullo, to point to the spot in the 2nd minute. However, replays clearly showed a blatant dive from the Istiklol skipper with all protests waived off. Sandhu, who had kept a penalty out in North Korea, was beaten this time by Davronov Nuriddin as the Tajik side went up 1-0.

Backed by a vociferous home support, the Blues went on an onslaught with the skipper pulling the strings from the left. First, he cut in from the left and hammered a low shot which was kept out by Istiklol ’keeper Nicola Stosic in the 6th minute before he sent a perfect through ball to Dimas down the middle which the Spaniard couldn’t capitalize on. Moments later, the skipper dribbled past three defenders from the left before once again being denied by the rival custodian.

Midway through the half, Daniel capitalized on a miss-pass by David Mawutor and fired a grounder which was cleared for a corner by the Stosic.

But given the pressure the Blues were piling on, an equaliser was always in the coming. A corner played short saw Udanta send a cross in the box that Bheke nodded home to make it 1-1 in the 24th minute. Bengaluru almost took the lead in the game at the half hour mark, only for Chhetri to be denied by the crossbar after a good move saw him gain possession in the rival box.

The Blues kept the pressure on, creating chance after chance as Istiklol were restricted to a few counter attacks. Meanwhile, Bengaluru’s task was made even harder in the 42nd minute when defender Harmanjot Khabra was given his marching orders by the referee for a second bookable offense after he brought down Dzhalilov Manuchher. The first half ended with the score locked at 1-1.

Needing two more goals to make it through, Bengaluru began pushing up right from the word go despite being a man down. Eight minutes in, Roca made the first change, throwing in attacker Antonio Dovale in place of midfielder Lenny Rodrigues.
The Blues were dealt another blow in the 56th minute when Dmitrii Barkov tapped in from close range breaking the offside trap to put Istiklol 2-1 up on the night.

Bengaluru went close to levelling the scores once again, when Udanta ran clear down the right before cutting in and floating a left-footed cross in the box to Daniel. The striker’s flick on landed for Chhetri at the far post but his effort was saved by the keeper.

Minutes later, Bengaluru FC did pull level when the referee penalized Oleksandr Stetsenko for bringing down Daniel in the box after Dovale had played him through. Chhetri stepped up and made no mistake from the spot to make it 2-2 in the 65th minute.
With the visitors opting for time wasting tactics, the supporters in the stands were making their frustration known along with the Blues’ bench. Into the final quarter, Roca made two more changes bringing in Alwyn George and Boithang Haokip in place of Daniel and Nishu Kumar.

The Blues continued to put bodies up front creating chances, but were falling short in the rival box. Into the final ten minutes, Bengaluru FC created a few close chances from set pieces, but once again Istiklol managed to somehow block the attempts as the game ended 2-2.

AFC Cup: Bengaluru FC go down fighting to Istiklol

Dushanbe, Tajikistan: Bengaluru FC fought hard, but were done in by dubious decisions at the end, as they went down 0-1 to a resolute FC Istiklol side in the first leg of the 2017 AFC Cup Inter-zone final at the Hisor Central Stadium, in Dushanbe, on Wednesday.

A first half goal from Dmitri Barkov (27th minute) puts Istiklol in the driving seat with Bengaluru FC having all to play for in the second leg at home, to be played on October 18.

Collin Abranches started ahead of Harmanjot Khabra at right-back in the only change that Albert Roca rung in from the side that held 4.25 SC to a draw away in DPR Korea.

The Blues got things off to an impressive start, defending with calm and pegging Istiklol back with swift counter attacks. But the home side made the most of a lapse in focus from Bengaluru when Dmitri Barkov met Fathuloev Fathullo’s cross from the right with a fantastic diving header to make it 1-0 in the 27th minute.

Sunil Chhetri soon had a chance to pull one back after being set up by Lenny Rodrigues but the skipper dragged his shot wide. At the other end, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu denied Ehsoni Panshanbe with a fantastic save to keep Bengaluru in the game at half time.

The second half saw Bengaluru FC keep more possession of the ball while trying to penetrate through the Istiklol defense. The hosts meanwhile, opted to push up on swift counter attacks, and one such move earned them a free-kick in a decent area just outside the box on the right in the 52nd minute. However, once again it was Gurpreet who pulled off another diving save to keep the score at 1-0.

A little over the hour mark, Roca threw in Khabra for Abranches and Daniel Lalhlimpuia for Toni Dovale as Bengaluru began putting Istiklol under pressure. Udanta Singh was throwing his pace at the defence but the hosts managed to stuff out any chance of a final ball.

The final quarter of the game saw some end-to-end action with both sides going all-out attack. Chhetri was once again the target man inside the box, but the skipper lacked the finishing touch inside the box.

With the Blues putting their bodies on the line in the final few minutes of the game, a quick counter attack right at the death almost changed the game. Udanta set on a solo and sprinted past a host of defenders down the left flank. His powerful drive was saved by the keeper and the rebound fell for Chhetri whose shot was clearly handled inside the box by a defender.

However, the referee waived play-on despite multiple protests by the Blues in the game’s most decisive moment with the final whistle blowing seconds later.

Speaking at the end of the game, Blues’ skipper Sunil Chhetri said, “We played very well in the second half and I think we deserved a goal. But it’s only one goal and we have all to play for in the second leg at home.”

AFC Cup: Bengaluru seal 3-0 aggregate win over 4.25 SC


Pyongyang, DPR Korea: Bengaluru FC kept their calm to hold on to a three-goal lead from the first leg to seal an aggregate win (3-0) after a goalless draw against 4.25 SC, at the May Day Stadium, in Pyongyang, on Wednesday. The result secures a place for the Blues in the Inter-zone final of the 2017 AFC Cup, where they are set to face Tajik side FC Istiklol in a two-legged affair.

While the game lacked goals, it was custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who impressed with some brilliant work under the bar for the Blues. The Punjabi-lad pulled off a crucial second half penalty save, as Albert Roca’s side extended their clean-sheet streak to three games in the competition, the longest in four years.

Going into the second leg, Roca opted to field an unchanged XI from the first leg with skipper Sunil Chhetri, Antonio Dovale and Udanta Singh leading the front line while Spaniard Dimas Delgado marshalled midfield.

The game, played on the artificial turf of the massive May Day Stadium, was a contrast to the first leg, where the Blues had dominated proceedings for majority of the night. In Pyongyang, Bengaluru were edged out in terms of possession and chances, but made up for with a stubborn defense as Gurpreet, Juanan Gonzalez, Rahul Bheke, Harmanjot Khabra and Nishu Kumar, who was later replaced by Subhasish Bose kept the 4.25 SC attack at bay.

While the first half saw Bengaluru create a few half chances, most notably through Toni Dovale, the hosts managed to control the game. With a sizeable turnout egging for the home side to attack, the Blues did well to arrive at the break with the scores unchanged.

Bengaluru were forced to sit deep and defend in the second half as tournament top-scorer Kim Yu Song almost gave 4.25 SC the lead in the 57th minute with a header, but it was Gurpreet once again who denied the striker. As the game progressed, Hwang Yong Song’s side continued to attack and substitute An Il-Bom who came on in the 61st minute, forced the Blues custodian into another brilliant diving save in the 70th.

The hosts continued to mount persistent attacks on the Blues’ back-line, passing the ball well while switching play efficiently to keep the pressure on. For Bengaluru, it was Man-of-the-Match Gurpreet who did well to command his defenders and the rest of the team, who dropped deep to help thwart the Korean side’s attack.

Into the final quarter of the game, 4.25 had the best chance to break the deadlock as Rahul Bheke brought down Bom inside the box in the 77th minute, prompting referee Wang Di to point to the spot. However, Gurpreet dived to his right denying midfielder Ri Hyong Jin’s effort from 12 yards.

The pressure culminated into another chance in the dying moments of the game, as midfielder Won Song hit the crossbar with an effort from 20-yards out but it wasn’t to be for the home side.

“They dominated majority of the game and deserved to win. But at the same time, we defended very well as a team and managed to hold on to our lead from the first leg. We are happy to have made it through and now look to get back to Bengaluru and prepare for the big game against FC Istiklol,” Roca said, speaking at the post-match press conference.

For their part, the Blues had to overcome numerous hurdles to get through – some on field, some off of it. While their travel plans were initially delayed due to Foundation Day Celebrations in DPR Korea, part of the luggage went missing in transit when they finally made it through to Pyongyang on Monday. With 15 bags of kits and equipment arriving just a day before the game, the Blues had to train in makeshift gear on the eve of the clash.

Up next in the Inter-zone final for Bengaluru FC will be Dushanbe-based Tajikistan side FC Istiklol who overcame Philippines’ Ceres Negros FC 5-1 (agg.) in the other two-legged Inter-zone semifinal. The first leg will be played away on September 27th, while the return leg at the Kanteerava Stadium is scheduled for October 18th.